Lessons from a broken, old bike and an angelic escort along the road less traveled:
“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Hebrews 1:14
8 July, 2013
All this week the weather has been beautiful here in Ireland. The O’Bryne’s, whom I am staying with, have an old bike they don’t use and gave me permission to use it while I am here. This last Monday I wanted to ride to Cahersiveen, the biggest of the nearby villages. Dominick helped me pump up the tires and gave me directions for taking the back road. Both the back and main roads are about 11km into town. Having seen first-hand how the roads do not have much in the way of a shoulder, I determined my chances were better off facing the hill Dominick had warned me of on the back road, than a run-in with a car on the main road. And off I went.
Within a few minutes of setting off, I could sense God begin to speak with me. His voice was not audible but just as clear. Hearts that put their trust in God have an instinctive way of recognizing His gentle and loving voice, just as Jesus describes in John 10:1-18 (“his sheep follow him because they know his voice”). In this manner, He began pointing out to me some simple yet profound object lessons related to the bike, the climb and the effort and time it took me to go from the B&B into town. Here are some examples:
I am a naturalist through and through. Being outdoors and surrounded by nature is the quickest way I connect with and experience God (If you aren’t familiar with Gary Thomas’ book, “Sacred Pathways,” I totally recommend it or at the very least, check out a site like this one for a simple overview of what they are. This site also includes a short survey you can take to find out what your sacred pathways are). I started out towards the village and as a naturalist, I couldn’t help but look around at the beautiful scenery and praise the Lord for this time I had to spend with Him. The first road I was on was only wide enough for one car. As cars came down the lane every few minutes, I would veer off to the far side of the road to make room for them. While riding near the edge, I was still trying to take in the landscape all around. Then my front wheel wobbled (in heinz sight this was probably due in part to the wheel alignment being off kilter). As I was pondering how silly it was I having trouble riding in a straight line unless I concentrated on the road, the Lord gently gave me this reminder: “you may be looking at good and lovely things around you but if your focus isn’t on the task at hand, you are likely to veer of course, or even fall.” Something told me He wasn’t just talking about the road to Cahersiveen (see Proverbs 4:25-27).
When I got to the hill I could see a good ways up the road before it turned, leaving me guessing as to how much more of a climb I would find beyond the bend in the road. I don’t like hills. Not when I am on a bike anyways. When it comes to hiking, I don’t mind them at all. In fact, I welcome them since I know I’ll be rewarded at the top with a great view. But on a bike, hills are a different story. Maybe it is because I have bad memories of the REALLY steep hill right next to Pomolita, the Jr. High I attended in Ukiah. When I was a student, on the days when I missed the bus and had to ride my bike to school, I was overwhelmed just at the sight of it. What was even worse than the sight however, was when I’d make it to within 10-15 feet of the crest and would inevitably have to hop off my bike and walk the rest of the way as classmates who were being dropped off by their parents went whizzing by in their cars. If you never had the pleasure of such an experiencing while in Jr. High, let me assure you, it is utter mortification for a 6th grader!
Any who, back to the hill on the road to Cahersiveen. As soon as I saw it, my heart immediately told the Lord how much I didn’t like the looks of it. He responded: “Only look at the next few feet. If you look too far up the road, you will be overwhelmed. Keep this principle in mind in life as well: I designed you to live in the present and to leave the future in my hands. Take life one or two painted lines at a time. Little by little I will get you where we are going.”
His Perfect Timing:
The gear the bike was stuck in was one of those high gears where when you are on a flat road, you have to pedal a lot just to go a short distance. Whenever the bike had even a small amount of momentum, pedaling became all but useless in trying to make the bike go faster. At first, I started praying as I kept clicking the gear switches thinking, “You can do anything, Lord. You can make the gears and chain start to work again, even if the cables are cut and rusting over!” After a few minutes, I decided the Lord had other purposes for them remaining inoperable though I did take up this effort and prayer briefly a second time when I hit the main road and lots of cars were skimming by me with 5km still to go!
Each time I looked at my watch I was getting more frustrated with the gears not working and with how long it was taking to get there. I kept thinking, “if only the gears were working, I would be there by now!” Then the Lord would say to me, “Why are you in such a hurry? Enjoy the ride. Enjoy this beautiful afternoon I have created for you. Just be content to spend time with me. Don’t be in such a rush. I will cause you to arrive exactly when you are supposed to, not a second too early, nor too late. The same is true for other issues in your life. There are things you have been asking me to give you for a while. I commend and encourage your persistence but remember also to rest in my timing, it is always perfect. The same will be true in the future when you will feel like you or someone or something around you should be farther along than they are. Remember, I allowed the bikes gears to be broken with my own good purposes in mind. I may not choose to show you what my purposes are but trust me and be patient.”
There wasn’t anything I could say in response to this. I know I needed this reminder. The broken gears all of sudden began smelling like ripe bananas.
Another lesson had to do with pride. Whenever a car would approach from either direction, I could feel my pride well up and concern for what the strangers in the car or tractor (folks I’ll probably never meet), would think of me. I know how to ride a bike and have a general understanding of which gears to use and when but being unable to switch out of the high gear I was in made me feel foolish and self-conscious. As I observed my pride’s reaction each time a car went by and my immediate instinct to try to “play it cool,” I could feel the Lord tapping me figuratively on the shoulder: “Why are you so worried about what they think of you? What does it really matter? My opinion of You is the only one you should be concerned with. Most of these folks aren’t paying close attention to you anyways and if they are judging you, it is of no concern to you anyways. Do not let yourself be burdened trying to seek and maintain the good opinion of those around you. Man looks only at outward appearances but I look at your heart.”
Coming down the hill, I picked up a fair amount of speed. I had prayed several times already the Lord would protect me and keep me safe but as I was picking up speed I started to feel that the bike was somehow loose (little did I know just how loose!). This led me to pray yet again for the Lord to protect me and still again when I finally reached the main road. When I reached the road, I was praying both for me and for the cars going by. The ones coming from behind were not always leaving me much room but in some cases, they couldn’t help it because of on-coming traffic and because of the broken gears I had no way of avoiding the times when two cars would pass each other and me at the same time. The last 5k was nerve-racking as I did my best to glue myself to the side of the road trying to avoid landing in the ditches and cow and hay pastures on my left side and getting side-swiped by passing cars on my right.
Back when I had been coming down the hill, I determined that if the bike and I both made it to Cahersiveen, I would go to the bike shop on the edge of town as soon as I arrived. I had seen the shop two days prior when I had gone to town with Lillian and was only hoping it would still be open by the time I arrived, assuming I would eventually arrive.
Boy was it a relief when the shop came into view! After introducing myself to Conn, the technician on duty, I explained where I had just ridden from and how the gears were not working. Not realizing all that was wrong with the bike, my initial request was only for an estimate on how much it would cost to fix the gears. He shook his head as he began surveying the bike and asked:
“You rode this from where? Which road did you take? The back road?! It is amazing both you and this bike made it here in one piece!”
He went on to repeat various permutations of the last line several more times as he continued his inspection. Each time he made such a comment, my response was something along the lines of:
“I am pretty sure there were several angels who escorted me here.”
The first time I said this, the words flew out of my mouth before I even knew what I was saying. As he started pointing out what needed to be repaired and replaced, and in particular, the looseness of both wheel locks and how the rear brakes weren’t working, all I could do was stand there repeating what I had just said as I became more and more convinced the words were true.
Here is a short list of some of the major things we found wrong with the bike:
- the gears (of the 21 gears, only 4 of highest ones were operable)
- the locks holding each wheel in place were very loose
- all three axles (both wheels and the pedals) were out of alignment
- the back brakes didn’t work (they weren’t tight enough to be of any help)
- the back wheel had a broken spoke
When Dominick and I returned two days later, Conn had found even more problems. Even as we were discussing with him whether or not it would be wise for me to ride it back to the B&B, a few more problems surfaced. We opted to leave the bike at the shop (we didn’t have a bike rack with us) and pick it up by car in the next couple of days.
Dominick happened to have two other bikes in need of repair. He graciously took time to fix them up over the last few days and they are now in a much better state than the first bike. Maybe next time I go for a ride, I won’t be needing as many angels to escort me as before. Not that I would ever turn down their company though!
I don’t know a whole lot about angels. The Bible doesn’t go into too many details about how they “minister” to us. All I know is I had more than one join me for my ride on Monday and I do not want to know how the ride might have ended had they not been with me.
I have a feeling since we don’t see angels (and when we do, more often than not they are incognito- see Hebrews 13:2 below), we often forget they are all around us and they are here to help. I think of the story of Elisha and his servant in 2 Kings 6:8-23 a lot. I really wish I had the eyes of faith to see what Elisha and his servant saw. How might we live (and pray!) more like the victors we are if we took God at His Word when He says through Elisha, “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with (you) are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16).
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing, some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2