A couple of my dear friends recently had a remarkable experience that I just feel compelled to share. Kurt Beasley is a gifted attorney and Bible teacher here in Middle Tennessee--and as you'll soon see, a pretty good writer too. David Mahand is a craftsman extraordinaire (I marvel at his handiwork every time I take a book down from the shelves in my library). A couple of weeks ago they shipped their bikes to New York City, borrowed an apartment for a few days, and proceeded to have the adventure of a lifetime. Or was it? I'll let Kurt tell it:
We all know the story in the book of Ruth where Ruth pledges allegiance to her mother-in-law, her country and her God. How with resolute determination Ruth said no to Naomi's urgings to find a new life on her own. Finally Naomi gave in and suggested that Ruth choose a particular field to glean in order to provide them sustenance. Ruth obediently followed the directions of her mother-in-law and found herself working day and night gleaning in the field. You know the rest of the story; the Bible says that "as it turned out," the field where Ruth was hard at work was owned by an honorable and wealthy man named Boaz. Boaz took a liking to Ruth, they were married, and they all lived happily ever after. Don't you just love Bible stories; how good always conquers evil and God's followers always get what they need? Well look closer, do you think Ruth was singing the praises of the Lord (who she had just met) during the heat of the Judean day? I doubt it. Why did Ruth have an "as it turned out experience?"
For some time I have been an avid bicycle rider and just love Manhattan. I have dreamed of riding down the streets of Manhattan, seeing the lights of the city and experiencing the NY experience. I along with my friend David finally decided to combine our two passions and set out to ride Manhattan.
At midnight (to avoid the traffic) Friday night September 9th, we left our borrowed apartment, above the Lamb's Church at Times Square, and set out to conquer the island. We traveled east toward the East River and began navigating the still busy streets. About three blocks from the apartment, 20 minutes into our ride of a lifetime, my back tire went flat. No problem; when I ride I always rely on David to carry a spare tube just for me. Around 12:45 AM we were back in the saddle and off to finish our experience. We continued east and it was not long until I was in front of the United Nations Building. Wow, what an experience, on my bike in front of the most influential place of power on Earth. As I was taking in the experience, yes, what I heard was the sound of my newly repaired back tire losing air once again. Flat tire number two and this time my friend David could not save me.
At about 1:30 Saturday morning we began our walk back to our apartment. Yes walk, we had no money and the nice taxi drivers did not seem to eager to allow us to tie down our bikes to the top of their cabs. For you avid and experienced bike riders, you know that we could not walk in our bike shoes, which have those fancy special clips. Thus, we journeyed back to the apartment, pushing my flat bike, barefooted and in our tight little shorts.
As we walked, I decided to talk with God. I asked him "Why did I travel all of the way to NY to find myself pushing my bike barefooted across Manhattan?" Since I had no choice, I began to praise Him for the experience. I thanked Him for saving me from some unknown disaster that surely would have befallen me if it were not for the flats. I silently thanked Him for His goodness (with my fingers crossed). Around 3:30 AM we finally arrived back to our apartment, tired and embarrassed. Another casualty of the city.
Not to be defeated, when the sun rose on Saturday morning David and I decided to find a bike shop in hopes of repairing my two flats. After searching the city we finally found a shop down in the Village, made our way by subway and by mid-day found some friendly faces who sympathized with our plight. As the young man repaired my tire I explained that we were on a journey and asked him for any suggestions as to where a fellow would ride if he wanted to see the city and avoid the potholes. With bewilderment he turned and said to me, "You have ridden the West Side Greenway (the bike path that runs along the west side of Manhattan) haven't you?" What path, where is the West Side?
It goes without saying that when 4 AM Sunday morning came, we could hardly wait to test out this young man's truth and veracity. We pulled out of the Lamb's Church and this time turned left (west) not east and made our way several blocks wondering what we would find and holding my breath that my back tire would hold up. We turned up 47th, crossed Broadway and almost fell off of our bikes when yes; we found it; stretching for miles running parallel to the Hudson River the most magnificent bike path we had ever seen. We turned north and pointed toward the George Washington Bridge, which was spectacularly adorned in its lights and splendor. The temperature was perfect; the path was perfect; the city was beautiful. As we screamed at speeds of 25 MPH (this is kind of fast on a bike) I screamed to God "Thank you. Thank you for the two flats. Thank you for your personal blessings. Thank you for the 'as it turned out' moments of life, where with our temporal eyes we often see only disappointment and sorrow but when we use the eternal eyes of the Holy Spirit we can see hope and blessings to come."
Well, we continued our journey and eventually left the bike path at around 110th street, biked through Harlem, into Spanish Harlem, and then made our way toward Central Park. All the time, I just kept thanking God, believing that we were nearing the end of a great ride, and riding with confidence that God really does care about the "little things." I remember saying at about 112th street, "God how could this trip have been any better? Going from disappointment to elation?"
And then it got better as we rounded a side street we turned into Central Park. It was still dark and we were alone. That's when it was as if God said to me "open your eyes." To an avid bike rider, it is impossible for me to describe what we saw at that moment. We made the turn and before our eyes were 10,000 bikers suited up and ready to go, lined up as far as you could see. We were smack dab in the front of the line of the NYC Century Ride. Yep, 10,000 fanatical bike riders setting out on a 100 mile ride from Manhattan and throughout the Burroughs. Tad, a friendly Wall Street stock broker, told us that guys talk all year about this ride, bets are placed, and challenges are issued. As we explained to the most experienced bike riders who were at the front of the line, where we had so innocently cut in, that we just happened down a side street and fell into heaven, the laughs that rang out almost caused irreparable injury.
Well yes, you got it, we joined (we did not even have to pay the $65 registration fee) the pack and within two hours we were zooming down Fifth Avenue and crossing the East River on the Brooklyn Bridge in the midst of one of the most gorgeous days that God has ever created.
It has been a few weeks since the monumental ride. The experience has almost worn off but the lesson hasn't. I thank my Lord for the two flats which led me to an experience that I could have never planned for or could have ever orchestrated.
Our lives are full of flats aren't they? I, like Ruth chose to praise Him even during the flats, because I serve an "as it turned out God." The next time the air goes out of your tires, praise Him, because you just never know, He may just be leading you to a path that He has chosen especially for you.