Monday, April 30, 2012

The Harley Way of Life

I think I’m a Harley Davidson.  Every time I hear one go past (I don’t have to actually see it to know it’s near) I wonder how it makes any progress sounding the way it does.  And sometimes I wonder the same thing about me.

When I was a boy of about thirteen, I was happily riding in our family car piloted by my mother when I heard an awfully loud sputtering and popping come alongside.  It was awful.  I slowly glanced in the direction of the cacophony and saw what I assumed was a man atop the strangest looking motorcycle I had ever seen.  Although he was right next to our car (I could barely make out his eyes and nose peering out from a sea of hair), the front tire on his bike was, I promise, forty-three feet away.  It might have been less, but thinking back, it might have been more…I don’t know.

Anyway, it seemed he was having trouble keeping the engine going because he kept revving it up, only to have it almost die.  Roooooooom, rooooooom—sputter, cough, gag—rooooooom, rooooooom—sputter, cough, gag.  And I thought, “He’s going to go somewhere on that awful thing?  No way.”

Then the signal light turned green.

After a final sputter, cough and gag, that slovenly beast of a motorcycle propelled the leather clad fur ball like a missile down the road and out of sight.  Stunned, I asked my mother, “What was that?”  “I don’t know,” she replied, “but I sure don’t like it.”

I had been introduced to Harley Davidson, and to this day I don’t know how those things get anywhere.  I have always believed that a smoothly running engine is the one you want—you can rely on it to get you where you want to go.  If the engine is sputtering, there is something wrong and it’s time to worry.  Who doesn’t know that?  You had better get it to the mechanic or call that friend who likes poking around in engines because until you get it working smoothly, you’re in trouble.  Isn’t life like that, too?

Not really.

From that first encounter with a Harley to the one I heard rumbling and stumbling past yesterday, Harley Davidson has taught me a lot about living.  In between the zooms there’s a whole lot of sputtering—and that’s normal.

There is so much in the New Testament about growing up in what Jesus has made of us—sons of God, foreigners in this world, ambassadors of Christ—that growing pains must be a part.  Who actually believes immediately after receiving Christ that we have become as foreign to this world as Jesus?  That we've been made genuine new creations?  That we cannot ever again live the way we once did, but can and must now live by the Spirit?  The challenge isn’t first to live and behave better, the challenge is to believe better.  It’s normal that we sputter and cough to believe such incredible facts!

We all see and experience so much that tells us we’re not what God says we are.  We fail to pray (cough), we fail to tell someone the gospel (gag), a hoped-for job advancement fails to come about (sputter), and we feel like we’re about to stall.  While that kind of stuff might change our minds about ourselves, it doesn’t influence God, who knows what He has made of us and carries on accordingly.  When I get stuck thinking I’m just a no good sputterer, the Holy Spirit works to rev me up because there’s some place to go.  Miraculously, I’m going to get there.  As a friend recently said, living is “steady growth by jerks.”

Until that day when we fully believe what God believes about us and about the way forward, it’s the Harley way for us—sputter, cough and gag—rooooom, rooooom.  And that’s okay.

Sometimes we get to zoom.


  1. John P. Cwynar10:41 AM

    Great & real word, brother... BUT I will show you an even more excellent way... the Mazda way... it (supposedly just) goes "Zoom... Zoom!":)))

  2. Pat Hux10:41 AM

    Interestingly, the following popped up on my news feed this morning:

    "If you are mentally somewhere else, you miss real life. -Byron Katie. Aw, but it's my favourite thing to do on a motorbike.

  3. Ruth Queale Coleman10:42 AM

    Great analogy Ralph! And soooo true, of course! The Lord has gifted you with words that speak life.

  4. Nancy Gilmore10:56 AM

    I love Harley's too! Rooooooooooooooom roooooooooooom!

  5. I have a new goal: I want to be a Mazda!

    Thanks for your comments, everyone.

  6. Norm Toler2:02 PM

    I really like this analogy. It came right at the appropriate time for me.
    Thanks ---Proverbs 25:11 & Proverbs 15:23

  7. Carolyn Kistner2:02 PM

    Great story Ralph!! Hey, you should write books!! Just saying...

  8. Sheila Perez4:23 PM

    Zoom, zoom, zoom!

  9. Murray Scott5:24 PM

    It could just be as simple as fixing our eyes on Jesus and not on whether we seem to be sputtering or zooming.

  10. That's a big part of it, Murray!

  11. John P Stolwyk10:32 PM

    Don't get me started on Harleys. Im glad God does not tune us up or overhaul us but gives us a new evolution motor. That ought to date me if ....

  12. Rebecca Rogers7:49 AM

    Wow. This truly ministered to right where I am.

  13. Dottie Ryan7:49 AM

    O Ralph ...I must say that this is ....well it has just taken my breath away and given me some kind of a new hope. Thank you for the post my friend. Amen and Amen. .... sharing :)

  14. Yossi Polinger10:11 AM

    So true...what a marvelous analogy..and I love Harley..