It appears my ’86 Ford F-150 Lariat is meant to play an ongoing role in my spiritual journey. I cannot say that I understand why. I just know that, whatever the reason, this fact became all too clear yesterday after my third run-in with the Buddhist biker.
As many of my most exciting stories do, it all began at the end of a uniquely wretched day. 5:30 pm and I was very ready to head home. I lugged my sidewalk sign inside the main street office where I work and locked the heavy door. 5:35 pm and it was still 103 degrees outside. I passed a man on the way to my truck, leaning against a rustic wooden fence and holding a motorcycle helmet. His sweaty hair was plastered to his forehead and his bike looked as tired as he did. I said ‘Hello.’ 5:40 pm and I pulled into my driveway. Grabbed my bag off the seat. Crunched my way across the gravel entryway. Creaked open the crooked gate. Entered the air-conditioned house. Lovely. At 5:45 pm I realized I’d forgotten something important… back at the office.
Back into the sun.
Back through the gate.
Back across the gravel.
Back into the truck.
Back past the biker. Still there… Weird. But this time on his bike. As I got out of the truck I noticed him looking at me in his rearview mirror. He removed his hands from the handlebars just then and straightened up, no longer appearing like he planned on going anywhere. Was he watching me? Probably just my imagination. Too many movies Josh.
Having retrieved the important item from the office, I was again locking the door when I noticed, once more, this man and his motorcycle. But this time he was pushing the bike, across the street and up a hill. Kicking myself for not perceiving his trouble earlier, I got back into my truck and followed in the direction he had gone. When I came around the corner, there he was, roughly halfway up the hill, attempting a jump-start on his bike as it rolled down towards me. I pulled up next to him when the failed start was over and opened the driver side door (because the window is still broken). “Need a hand?” asks the mechanically ignorant missionary kid. “No,” says the sweaty biker, “I think I’ve got it.” I nodded [with relief] and drove about 30 yards beyond him up the road before something literally blew up under the hood of my truck. Popping, gurgling noises everywhere. Steam curling out from the vicinity of the front grill. The distinct smell of an indistinct something or other, burning. GREAT. ‘God… what are you doing?’ whined the part of me that feigns ignorance regularly as a self-defense mechanism. This particular mechanism had engaged because the other part of me that’s more sanctified knew He wanted me to do or say something to this biker. I prayed really hard it wasn’t the other way around.
By the time I’d walked back down to where I’d passed him earlier, he was pushing his bike back up the hill for the third time. He shook his head in disbelief as I recounted my truck woes. “How does that stuff happen?” he wondered aloud. I was pretty sure I knew. I found out quickly that he was a Buddhist living at a local monastery. He found out quickly that I was the pastor of a local church. This made for an interesting moment of thoughtful silence as we leaned on the back of his broken motorcycle. And then, as we stood there in the heat, I suddenly knew what it was God wanted me to do. I knew it. But I didn’t want to do it. “Pray for the bike.” That’s what I sensed Him saying. “Oh you’ve got to be kidding” was about all I could think back. So I stalled.
I told him about our church, where we meet every Sunday and what time, you know, should he get bored with Buddhism. He in turn got marginally brave and told me ‘we all need to come together’ and that his nephew was also a minister. Just about then my wife pulled up in the car to take me home. “PRAY—FOR – THE– BIKE.” Sigh. You win God. “Hey, before I go, would you mind if I pray for your bike to start?” “That would be great” he says. Putting my hands on the bike I said, “Father, I know meeting this man was not a coincidence. You’ve brought us together here. Now please, by the power of your son Jesus, ‘heal’ this bike. The next time this man tries to start it, let it run. In Jesus' name, Amen.”
The man smiled, thanked me and said “God bless,” but hesitated to start the bike. I could tell he didn’t want to embarrass me if he tried and it didn’t start, so I got in the car, waved and started to drive away. Sneaking a peak in my rearview mirror, I saw the man start the bike. And get on. And drive away. When I made my wife go around the block an extra time to double check, we saw him motoring by, his bike happily chugging uphill. Thank you Jesus! Faith isn’t about being sure of yourself. It’s not even about being sure of outcomes. Faith is about being sure of God.
Since God healed the Buddhist’s bike, you may be wondering what happened to my truck. He’s got a sense of humor... it’s still parked out there.