We were on a ride to Canada, taking the long way to get there. Today’s long part of the long way was riding through the Napa Valley, in particular stopping in St. Helena to drop money on calories at a bakery we had frequented before.
But coming into town, my rear started to wiggle, not from excitement, but from a nail in the rear tire. Now it is said, and rightfully so, do not repair a tubeless motorcycle tire, but this nail was right in the middle of the tread, could be removed and a plug inserted. Which is exactly what the man who owned the Harley-Davidson rental store did. Not a mechanic, not even a rider, he got into it because of the money potential, and learned to fix things that the renters damaged along the way. He told tales of how the rental bikes were returned, some in horrible shape, and how their expensive deposit, $4000, was claimed by him no matter the cost of repair, and that no renter had ever balked. He was amazed of the easy money, and how the renters never questioned the price of the ride nor the deposit. All while fixing my flat… we hadn’t talked price, yet. And when he was done, he told us “No charge,” he was glad to have the company, as most customers just came in and rode right off. He was an interesting man, cordial but not friendly, but happy to help. Our thanks was a pastry from the bakery destination, no deposit necessary.
State Road 128 looked like a great alternative to the 101, which isn’t a bad road either. But close enough to a four-laner to be considered one. So off we went, again after a bakery stop, no flat tire this time, and headed north. After Conestoga the road gets very interesting, and something was coming up fast in my mirrors. All I could see was the rider crouched down behind the fairing, and let him pass, giving him the lane. He waved thanks and was gone, for a while, more machine and talent than I chose to compete with, but soon found he was just ahead, as if he was waiting for us. And so we followed his lines through the curves, and when he did get ahead, he would slow down and wait for us. Like a guided tour of the road, he adapted to our speed, and then challenged us just a bit to see if we follow. It made for a great ride, thrills but no chills, and when we pulled over to get a Coke, he waved and rode on. I was hoping he would return, I would buy the first round, but his wave was all I heard as he wound out the gears. A man we never met, but who took the time to make our ride a little better; a little more exciting. Two men who probably would never meet, one who rents and doesn’t ride, one who rides but doesn’t rent. That’s motorcycling.
Jesus asked his disciples one day, after seeing the miracles and hearing him teach, “do you still not see? Don’t you understand?” Do your eyes and ears fail you; have you forgotten what you know? How much do you depend on the physical to reveal the spiritual? Do you rely on Jesus at all? So many get excited after a message but how many times have you walked out of church, being blessed, and encounter the long lines leaving the property? Then at the grocery store or when out to diner? Why can’t these others shop or dine later, or earlier, they know it’s busy? Do you, why don’t you? And so we get angry, forgetting the spiritual aspect of the teaching, and failing in its application. Just like the disciples did. And we still do.
Suddenly we lose interest in what God is doing, and take it all upon ourselves. The 18” battle between brain and heart picking up a nail, and having to detour. But like the Harley renter who doesn’t ride, who doesn’t repair, God had him there for us that day. We could have argued, questioned his skills, but we had the peace of God that this was where He wanted us to be. To have our problem remedied, to enjoy the bakery, and to show kindness to the owner. Only later did I stop to think how much we ministered to him, he was lonely, needed someone to talk to who would listen, and we weren’t going anywhere. Both of us were blessed, a physical need and an emotional need, the flat tire just made the way. Jesus also goes on about their heart being hardened.
Maybe not to the point of disintegrating, but hard enough nothing was going to get through. It can be as simple as getting mad at God for the nail and ruining our ride, or as big as, well you pick. Nothing is too big or too small for God… and then we turn to God and obey. We find His truth exciting, and we trust Him, seeing how He was there the whole time. But still the 18” battle rages, because the mind has grasped it, but the heart is hard.
We are taught the Bible, but not how to apply it. God supplies the lessons, the tests and trials to see if we are listening, if we are seeing: if we do trust Him. To the 5000 Jesus fed, some just saw the food, but those who saw the miracle got the real blessing. And the same blessings are here today. Do you see, do you hear? Are you paying attention? How can a flat tire be a blessing? Only by God’s spirit, can we see the spiritual things and applications. And all learning without application is useless. Without the spirit, you are blind and deaf to what God is saying. When it is all about me, it isn’t about others, including God.
But God knowing how much we like to ride also provided a tour guide to follow on another ride. We could have gotten competitive or tried to ride his ride. But this unknown rider adapted his skills to our situation, and by following we were guided. We trusted him, he obviously knew the road, and the ride was blessed. Maybe an angel on a sport bike, or an angel who can fix flats. But in each case, God made the ride better, and even better when we reflected on Him along on it. Many times our needs go beyond the physical and we are blind to what the spirit is saying. Think back on the times Jesus has been with you in the past, the testimonies and lessons learned. Remember them now and recognize you are in the hands of a loving father, who has put you right where you are to teach you a loving lesson: to trust Him. Two afternoons I remember now, I wish I had been as smart then. Aren’t you glad Jesus is?