A few years ago, I rode my motorcycle with a friend of mine, Fr. David Darcy, to a big motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.  It was the second time that we had gone, and this time two other people joined us.  One of the days we went out for a ride, Fr. David and I decided to head up to North Dakota.  The other two were not interested and so we split up.  As we started heading north we passed a sign that said, Next Gas Station 35 Miles.  I was not particularly worried about it because I knew I had plenty of gas.  Well, the sign was wrong and so I ran out of gas in the middle of South Dakota.  You have never truly been in the middle of nowhere until you have run out of gas in South Dakota—in the middle of nowhere.  No cell service!  No houses around—anywhere!  Just a road that stretched on for miles and miles.  Oh yes… and lots and lots of corn and wheat fields that stretched endlessly in every direction.

Fr. David still had gas, and so I told him to keep going and find a gas station.  About twenty minutes after he left, a motorcycle and truck pulled over to find out what was going on.  The biker asked me what was happening and I told him I ran out of gas.  He responded, “You should have got gas at the last station.”  I answered, “I know.”  (But I must admit that I was thinking of some other answers that were not very nice.)  He asked me if I wanted some help.  He said he could tow me behind his bike and get me to the gas station, which was about 25 miles away.  After he explained how it would work, I agreed.  He gave me instructions on what I should and should not do.  The most important thing to remember was to not apply the brakes or we would both end up in the ditch at the side of the road.  I assured him that I understood.  Using some tie-downs, he connected my bike to his and off we went.  I must admit it was somewhat of a scary ride for me.

I quickly realized that I had little control over what was happening.  I remember at one point there was a big eighteen-wheeler coming from the opposite direction, and the wind gust it produced pushed against me.  I had to figure out quickly how to adjust.  I used only subtle movements because again I did not want to effect what the lead rider was doing.  I simply prayed that no more trucks would come by.  (And fortunately, none did.)  Now, most of the roads in South Dakota tend to be rather straight, particularly in the area we were traveling.  But, of course, we hit a section with some curves.  Normally I love curves when I am riding, but at this point I was not happy.  Again, I had to figure out how to adjust based on what the lead rider was doing.  I had to match his actions and be in harmony with him—he was in control.  (I again prayed and this time for no curves.  ‘Thank you, God!’—the rest of the way was straight.)  As we were driving we eventually came upon Fr. David’s bike, but he was not there.  I figured he walked or got a ride to the nearest gas station.  Shortly after passing his bike we approached a stop sign.  I decided I needed to apply the brakes; well… I was wrong!  As soon as I touched them, both bikes jerked.  I quickly stopped doing that until I saw him come to a stop, and only then did I apply the breaks.  As he started up again, we had to take a left turn.  I had no idea how this would happen, but at this point I simply had to trust.  He pulled out slowly, the tie-downs slack tensed up, and the turn was made.  Finally he pulled into a post office.  “Why are we pulling into a post office?”, I thought.  I was hoping we would go straight to the gas station.  That’s when I found out that the local post office was also the local: grocery store, restaurant, bar, and gas station.  I filled up my tank and his as well, thanked him profusely, and then set out to find Fr. David.  (What happened to Fr. David is another story… tune in.)  We did eventually make it to North Dakota that day.

What did I learn from all this?  First of all, don’t trust every sign!  Not every sign we get is necessarily from God.  As Saint Paul tells us: we need to discern every spirit, or sign, and test it to make sure it’s from God.  It’s difficult at times to really understand the directions God is giving us, but it is important to know the clear instructions He is giving us.  The first and most important instructions are those we receive from God through the scriptures.  When He tells us not to do something (like apply the brakes), it’s best to listen or we might end up in a ditch.  God’s instructions are always for our own good.  And prayer is essential when we hit those moments when the instructions are not clear as to what we should do.  When the curves of our lives show up, we need to turn to God for more information, or simply the strength and courage to face what is coming: many times we have no control over what is happening.

Secondly, the only way we can get to where we need to be is to give up control and to trust in God’s Divine Providence.  And our destination may be a lot further than we realize.  We need to give control of our lives to the Holy Spirit, even though we do not always understand what He’s doing or how it’s all supposed to work out.  The reality is that the Spirit knows what He is doing, and we simply need to trust Him and hang on.  At first, the route by which the Spirit is taking us might not seem to be where we need to go.  But through discernment we can begin to understand why we need to be there.

Life is not simply about the destinations we are trying to reach.  Many times, in our lives, we get so focused on where we’re trying to go, or what we want to accomplish, that we lose sight of what we are presently experiencing.  We can only truly discover God in our lives when we begin to live in, and be open to, the present moment.

I know it can be scary experience, but ‘let go and let God’ start pulling you along.

If you have any questions about anything, please do not hesitate to ask me directly, or send your questions to me at fr.brian@chelmsfordcatholic.org.

Please keep me in your prayers.

In Christ,

Fr. Brian