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Cynthia and I are into Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
I know, I know...it doesn't fit our image. Who really cares? We stopped worrying about our image years ago. We should be ashamed of ourselves? We aren't. We're having a mutual mid-life crisis? We hope so. We should be better examples to the youth? They love it! Actually, it's only a few crotchety adults who don't. What are we going to say to our grandkids? "Hey, kids, wanna ride?"1 And how are we supposed to explain it to the "the board?" They don't care either.
We are having more fun than anybody can imagine (except fellow Harley riders). One of the best things about the whole deal is that those guys and gals down at the bike shop don't have a clue as to who we are. We have finally found a place in our area where we can be out in public and remain absolutely anonymous. If anybody down there happens to ask our names, we'll just tell 'em we're Jim and Shirley Dobson. Those Harley hogs don't know them either.
You should have been in the showroom when I first sat on one of those big bikes. Cynthia stood a few feet away and just stared. She didn't know whether to laugh out loud or witness to me. She compromised and hopped on behind after I winked at her. She couldn't resist. As soon as she leaned forward and whispered in my ear, "Honey, I could get used to this," I knew it wouldn't be long before we'd be truckin' down the asphalt without a worry in the world.
We sat there and giggled like a couple of high school sweethearts sipping a soda through two straws. She liked the feel of sitting close to me (she couldn't resist, naturally), and I liked the feel of her behind me and that giant engine underneath us. And that inimitable Harley roar. Man, it was great!
Suddenly, sitting on that shiny black heritage Softail Classic with thick leather saddlebags, we were on the back streets of Houston in 1953 all over again, roaring our way to a Milby High School football game. She was wearing my letterman's sweater and red-and-white saddle oxfords, and I had a flattop with a ducktail and a black leather jacket with fringe and chrome studs!
When we came back to our senses, we realized that somehow we were sorta misfits. I mean, a responsible senior pastor and radio preacher in a suit and tie with a classy, well-dressed woman who is executive vice president of Insight for Living perched on a Harley-Davidson in a motorcycle showroom. Everybody else was wearing t-shirts, torn jeans, boots, black leather stuff, and sported tattoos. I saw one guy who had a tattoo on each arm...one was a snarling bulldog with a spiked collar and the other was a Marine insignia—the eagle, globe, and anchor of the Corps! A few folks were glancing in our direction as if to say, "Get serious!" And Cynthia leaned up again and whispered, "Do you think we ought to be in here?"
"Of course, honey, who cares? After all, I'm a Marine! What I need is a pair of black jeans and leather chaps and all you need is a tattoo, and we'll blend right in." The jeans and chaps for me, probably someday. But Cynthia with a tattoo? I rather doubt it. Somehow I don't think it would go over very big at formal church dinners and the National Religious Broadcasters banquets.
We have had one hilarious time with this in our family. Especially since I raised all four kids with only one unchangeable Swindoll rule: "You will not ever ride or own a motorcycle!" Now the old man and his babe are roaring all around town. And it's our now-grown kids who are trying to figure out what's happened to their parents and what to say to their kids when they see their grandparents tooling down the freeway like a couple of gray-haired teenagers. Actually, we're getting concerned lately that our children may be a little too strict with their kids. "Ya gotta lighten up, guys," as they say down at the Harley hangout. The only one of the bunch who fully understands is our youngest, Chuck—but that makes sense. He rides a Harley too.
What's happening? What would ever possess me to start messing around with a motorcycle, cruising some of the picturesque roads down by the ocean, or taking off with my son for a relaxed, easygoing two or three hours together? What's this all about?
It's about forgetting all the nonsense that every single moment in life is serious. It's about breaking the thick and rigid mold of predictability. It's about enjoying a completely different slice of life where I don't have to concern myself with living up to anyone else's expectations or worry about who thinks what. It's about being with one of our kids in a world that is totally on his turf (for a change), not mine, in a setting that is just plain fun, no work. It's about being me, nobody else.
It's about breaking the bondage of tunnel vision. It's about refusing to live my life playing one note on one instrument in one room and finding pleasure in a symphony of sounds and sights and smells. It's about widening the radius of a restrictive and demanding schedule where breathing fresh air is sometimes difficult and thinking creative thoughts is occasionally the next thing to impossible.
Bottom line, it's about freedom. That's it, plain and simple. It's about being free.
It's about entering into a tension-free, worry-free world where I don't have to say something profound or fix anyone or do anything other than feel the wind and smell the flowers and hug my wife and laugh till we're hoarse. That's it in a nutshell...it's about freeing ourselves up to laugh again.
In Jesus' day He took His twelve disciples across a lake to enjoy some R&R alone on a mountainside. Who knows what they did for fun? Maybe they climbed rocks or swam in a cool lake or sat around a campfire and told a few jokes. Whatever, you can count on this—they laughed. Today, Cynthia and I prefer to hop on the old Harley. If Jesus lived on earth today, He might ride with us. But something in me says He probably wouldn't get a tattoo. Then again, who knows? He did a lot of other stuff that made the legalists squirm. He knew the truth...and the truth had really set Him free.