A hot August night outside Beaumont TX may qualify as one of the worst of my life. I’d cruised out of New Orleans earlier that day, on a chopped ’73 Honda 750. For old riders who remember “Easy Rider,” yeah, it had a metal flake flag painted on the tank and side covers. In the pic above, that’s me with the red tank top. I took off on the trip with no notice and fewer plans. Just a backpack with a few clothes, a sleeping bag, a poncho for a ground cloth, and no tent. That last omission proved problematic. On this night, the heat and humidity kept me from getting in the bag, but the mosquitoes and other unknown biting Southern bugs put me back in. So I gave up about 3 am, and headed west to El Paso.
Doughnuts and coffee at rest areas on that Labor Day weekend overcame the lack of sleep until the sun came up, only to reveal vultures circling overhead in west Texas. I suspect they viewed me as lunch. At this point, my longest riding day had been maybe 500 miles, and El Paso lay about 900 miles west from my starting point. Friends there expected a visit, but no arrival time meant no hurry to arrive. For some strange reason, I decided to ride all the way in one day. Utterly stupid.
Memories stay fresh. The vultures. The coffee. Lonely roads. A very sore butt. Yet those memories remain because of the difficulty of the goal. A silly, insignificant one, yet with some risk to finish it. The goal? To see if I could do it. To push myself.
That story has meaning beyond just riding 900 miles. I’ll sacrifice for a goal. Since then, I try to push myself regularly, and not just on bikes. I like new challenges; I need them, to move beyond complacency. Jobs tend to grow stale after 7 years or so, to the frustration of my wife. Fortunately, my attraction to her hasn’t. Even professions change: I’ve had 6 entirely different types of jobs, from ministry to education to writing to sales to management to miscellaneous (caretaking an unused guest ranch in the mountains above Taos for one).
To show my quirkiness, during summer vacation as a teacher I roll out of bed at pretty much my normal school year time. I fear being too slothful, and, knowing myself, I could easily slide into complacency.
That’s true spiritually too, and I suspect the above challenges connect directly. The greater the challenge, the greater the reliance on God.
Kick Starting the Discussion
If an insignificant goal possesses enough value to sacrifice for, how much more should we sacrifice to a significant goal? One that seems to exceed our reach? One that will not only stretch us, but require us to marshal all our resources and strength and faith?
What goals do you have like that? Should you? Where does following God fit into your panoply of plans? Have you taken on impossible tasks, just to see that working with God makes them possible? Do you sense God whispering a new challenge? If so, would that challenge be the only way to make a needed change in you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Note: a different and expanded version of this in Ch 28 of God, a Motorcycle, and the Open Road.