Riding The Gritty Road

So, I sold my baby.  My non-sentient one, a 1977 J.C. Penney Pinto moped which I repaired myself, and tricked out with a custom seat, grips and sidewalls.  I loved that bike.  But I had some car repairs to make, and so Red Pinto was sacrificed to fix Rocket, my family’s Toyota Sienna.

I’m sorry, Red Pinto.

Driving a moped is a very interesting experience.  Most of the time, I ride with a full motorcycle helmet, not because I ride so fast, but because the cars around me go so fast.  And I need to protect my face, because that’s how I make my money.  But on really hot days, or days where I know there won’t be a lot of traffic, I like to ride in my little half helmet, which does nothing more than make sure that, should I crash, my brain does not pass through the top of my skull, but through my smashed cheekbones instead.

When you ride with a half helmet, and no gogggles/glasses, driving becomes a totally different experience.  The first thing you notice is how dirty the streets are.  Every passing car or gust of wind fills your nostrils or mouth with sand and grit, and you realize how street cleaners are completely useless contraptions.  The second thing you notice is the smell, how the streets reek of gasoline.  You don’t really perceive it when you are in your car because it’s so sealed from the outside environment.  The only time car drivers smell gas is when they get a spot of it on their hands while filling up the tank.  But the truth is that the roads are redolent with gasoline fumes.  The same thing goes with sounds.  Large trucks are very loud.  And ambulances, WOW!  But there’s a reason that firetrucks and ambulances are that loud – it’s because our cars are specifically designed to mute sounds from the outside, and create massive amounts of sounds from the inside instead.

Lastly, you quickly realize that every person is driving way too fast.  Again, that is not that big of a deal when you are locked in a steel cage that will puff up with balloons should you crash.  But when you are riding an overgrown lawn mower down the street with a piece of plastic covering your skull, you realize how fast and heavy and dangerous cars truly are, and how strange it is that we should feel so invulnerable in something that is the leading cause of death for people ages 5-34.  We hurtle down roads made of hardened asphalt, traveling at speeds that only a few organisms in the world are physically capable of coming close to.  And we do so while listening to the radio, peering at our GPS or phones, maybe even daring to answer a few texts.  We just never realize how dangerous that really is, not from the inside.

Now this might not seem like such a big deal, until you realize that perhaps the reason that we care so little about street, noise, and air pollution is that we have no reason to.  After all, the inside of our car is (relatively) clean, quiet, and nice-smelling.  So who the heck cares what it’s actually like out there on the road!  But if the inside of our cars resembled the gritty loudness of the street, you can bet your butt people would demand action.

And again, maybe the reason we drive so fast is because we personally have never been clipped by the rear view mirror of 2000 lb car going 50 mph down a 3o mph street.  And so we have no idea how close that we came to casually ending that poor rider’s life, or at the very least, giving him a really, really bad day.  Perhaps if we were more personally aware of how dangerous driving a car can be, we would all be a little more willing to drive at a reasonable speed.

And you see the problem of an overly comfortable, hermetically sealed car, and life: it blissfully divorces us from reality.  It prevents us from truly understanding the plight of others.  It fosters ignorance.  And cars are not the only contexts that facilitate such a mentality.   Our meat is slaughtered in closely guarded abattoirs, our only interaction with it as a red blob wrapped in styrofoam and cellophane.  Our elderly pass away in antiseptic nursing homes, separated from the eyes of people who would prefer not to be forced to face such a grim reality.  Both are too icky for common consumption.

And no offense, but many of our churches function in the same exact manner: as more of a museum than a hospital, a time when perfect people come together in perfect places to live perfect lives.  We don’t use words like “mental illness” or “drug addiction” or “abortion” because they make us shift uncomfortably in our theater style seat, and settle instead for broad but ill-defined terms like “fallenness”, which I am not sure is technically even a word.  The poor, the ill, and the unclean stand out like sore thumbs on Sunday morning.

Walking the gritty road is obviously gritty, but so important.  Seeing the poor in your neighborhood or in your church is undoubtedly uncomfortable, helps you remember that the poor really exist outside of magazine articles and the like.  They are not imaginary constructs or statistics, but people living down the street with names and children.  As a result, we are all the more committed to fighting poverty.  Christians need to summon up the courage to call things by their proper names, and no longer rely on spiritual euphemisms alone to describe the hardest elements of our life.  We need to say the words, “abortion”, and “mental illness”, and “drug addiction”, not for the shock value that those words hold, but so that we can look our issues straight in the face and deal with them directly and more effectively, and without shame.  If we do not and content ourselves only with talking euphemistically, we leave people dreadfully unprepared for the reality of what life is like, even a life with Christ.

We should also remember that walking the gritty road is exactly what Jesus did for us.  He separated Himself from the perfection of heaven in order to be born in the squalor of a barn, and die in shame on the cross, so that His ministry to us might be perfected, and He might become our perfect High Priest and Intercessor.  Christ walked the gritty road.

And so should we.  No, it’s not easy, and may shock, scare, and scandalize you.  But perhaps a bit of shock and scandal is exactly what our faith needs.

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8 thoughts on “Riding The Gritty Road

  1. Great post pastor peter I am not as fortunate as you to have such a sweet 1970’s ride, but as a cyclist I have often observed the fumes that you mentioned while stopped at a stop light with a row of idling cars and trucks. Thank you for your observations and insights.

  2. I’m just reading this now but I really like where you ended with this point. We need to talk about these things in any aspect of life (not just from the pulpit either) — it’s like my own personal experience with having had a late-term miscarriage. I didn’t realize how many people I knew had had one (though usually earlier on) until I had my own that came past the first trimester so everyone knew about it. When you’re going through something, whether a miscarriage or drug addiction or mental illness, it’s good to hear about it from other people so that you don’t feel like you’re the only one.

    1. i totally agree, lauren. i think the power of addressing these things in church (or from the pulpit) is that it has a freeing corporate effect, and helps create a new culture.

  3. Thanks for sharing what you experience on a moped for those of us who have no intention of ever getting on one. Sad to hear that our streets smell of gasoline–have you ever read “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins? I so agree about insulating ourselves from the grittiness of the world. Sometimes we’re too busy with “church stuff” to even engage with the pain standing right next to us at fellowship hour.

    1. i’m ashamed to admit that i see the same dynamic at work in my own heart, even as a pastor. sometimes i just want a bunch of good people get together and say good things to each other (and to me). anything that contradicts that really disappoints me. i’m learning to embrace the brokenness, which is very hard, but is the true calling of any who claim to be a follower of Christ!

  4. Hey Peter, that’s an awesome bike. I’m sorry you had to sell it. I’ve been thinking about selling my bike too to use the money more wisely. Alas, my dream for Val and me to take a Dumb and Dumber road trip through the Rockies will never happen. Anyway, amen on the rest of your post. Jesus didn’t drive through life with the windows rolled up.

    1. haha, dumb and dumber road trip. classic! yeah, i have been having serious seller’s remorse over that bike. it was pretty rare and got me a lot of stares from people on the street. not stares of admiration mind you, but stares nonetheless. any attention is good attention, right?

Comments are closed.

Riding The Gritty Road

So, I sold my baby.  My non-sentient one, a 1977 J.C. Penney Pinto moped which I repaired myself, and tricked out with a custom seat, grips and sidewalls.  I loved that bike.  But I had some car repairs to make, and so Red Pinto was sacrificed to fix Rocket, my family’s Toyota Sienna.

I’m sorry, Red Pinto. Continue reading “Riding The Gritty Road”

8 thoughts on “Riding The Gritty Road

  1. Great post pastor peter I am not as fortunate as you to have such a sweet 1970’s ride, but as a cyclist I have often observed the fumes that you mentioned while stopped at a stop light with a row of idling cars and trucks. Thank you for your observations and insights.

  2. I’m just reading this now but I really like where you ended with this point. We need to talk about these things in any aspect of life (not just from the pulpit either) — it’s like my own personal experience with having had a late-term miscarriage. I didn’t realize how many people I knew had had one (though usually earlier on) until I had my own that came past the first trimester so everyone knew about it. When you’re going through something, whether a miscarriage or drug addiction or mental illness, it’s good to hear about it from other people so that you don’t feel like you’re the only one.

    1. i totally agree, lauren. i think the power of addressing these things in church (or from the pulpit) is that it has a freeing corporate effect, and helps create a new culture.

  3. Thanks for sharing what you experience on a moped for those of us who have no intention of ever getting on one. Sad to hear that our streets smell of gasoline–have you ever read “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins? I so agree about insulating ourselves from the grittiness of the world. Sometimes we’re too busy with “church stuff” to even engage with the pain standing right next to us at fellowship hour.

    1. i’m ashamed to admit that i see the same dynamic at work in my own heart, even as a pastor. sometimes i just want a bunch of good people get together and say good things to each other (and to me). anything that contradicts that really disappoints me. i’m learning to embrace the brokenness, which is very hard, but is the true calling of any who claim to be a follower of Christ!

  4. Hey Peter, that’s an awesome bike. I’m sorry you had to sell it. I’ve been thinking about selling my bike too to use the money more wisely. Alas, my dream for Val and me to take a Dumb and Dumber road trip through the Rockies will never happen. Anyway, amen on the rest of your post. Jesus didn’t drive through life with the windows rolled up.

    1. haha, dumb and dumber road trip. classic! yeah, i have been having serious seller’s remorse over that bike. it was pretty rare and got me a lot of stares from people on the street. not stares of admiration mind you, but stares nonetheless. any attention is good attention, right?

Comments are closed.