Riding pillion

As a younger man I used to love motorcycles. If the truth be known, I still do but have more recently become the person I swore I’d never be. Sadly, I’m now the who says,

“Well, yeah I used to have motorbikes but, you know, what with work and the family, I don’t really have the time or money any more. I’ll get another one some day…etc…etc…”

I digress though and that’s another story for another day. Please allow me a moment to snap out of my two-wheeled reverie…

Where was I? Ah yes, motorbikes.

Most of the time, I used to ride alone but sometimes would take a pillion on the back. This was either through desire, in the case of the girlfriend who later became my wife, or necessity when taking one of my brothers or a mate to the pub. Motorcyclists quickly learn that that there are two kinds of pillion. Very good pillions and very bad pillions. With a very good pillion (my wife, for example) it’s almost like no one is back there and you can guide the bike as easily as when riding solo. However a very bad pillion (most notably, one of my brothers) is a thing of great motorcycling evil and even the best bike is reduced to handling like a canal barge. As the rider, it’s all you can do to wrestle the poor machine through the corners in an effort to keep everyone sunny side up and even if you (and your very bad pillion) make it to the end of the journey, it’s not a very pleasant experience for either of you!

Strangely though, good and bad pillions are only separated by two simple things. Trust and relaxation.

Good pillions place their trust in the rider. They trust that the he or she knows where they’re going and the best way to get you both there. And then they relax so that the rider can steer their machine along the road and through corners with a minimum of effort. Poor pillions are nervous and don’t trust. They stiffen up and at best make the bike feel like it has a huge counterweight on the back. At worst, they second guess all of the corners before you get to them, leaning at completely the wrong time in a vain effort to steer the bike themselves. This messes up the bike’s handling spectacularly and is dangerous stuff!

I was struck recently though, how much this is like our own walk with the Lord.

Take a look at the, somewhat irreverent, analogy of God as the motorcyclist (and no, just for the record He wouldn’t ride a Harley Davidson*) us as the pillion and the journey as our walk with Him through life. God already has our journey planned out. Although we don’t know our destination, or even many of the stops along the way, He knows exactly where He’s going to be taking us. Sometimes all we can see is the short stretch of road directly ahead of us and not what might lie around the next corner. Despite this, God wants us to hop up on the back, place our trust in Him and relax so that He can take us along the journey He has in store. When we do this obediently, we experience the most fantastic life in harmony with His purpose for us.

Trouble comes when we start to worry or trust in ourselves more than in Him. We tend to try and steer the bike from the back seat with catastrophic effects on the journey. We wobble off course, are forced to take wrong turns and it’s only by putting our trust back in God that He’s able to get the whole thing back on track for us.

Of course, trust is a two-way thing. People can be nervous about something as thrilling as riding on the back of a motorbike and there’s nothing worse for a nervous pillion than a rider who behaves like an idiot. Even if you get to the end of the journey in one piece, it’s unlikely that the poor pillion will even trust enough to get back on a bike.

God’s not like that though. Scripture (Jeremiah 29:11, for example) tells us that He wants the best for us and the Christian experience (from what I’ve learned) tends to back this up. He loves us, treats us tenderly and tells us He won’t give us more to cope with than we can handle. In my vary crude analogy, He’s a careful biker who acts with consideration for His pillion offering even the most nervous the chance to build up trust in Him.

Motorbikes are fast and exciting and a form of transport taken as much for the journey as the destination at its end. In a funny way, so it is with our lives as Christians. It’s sometimes hard to explain just how fundamentally good and life-changing it is when you commit to following Christ. In the same way, you can wax lyrical about how exciting it is to ride pillion on a motor bike. However, it’s only when someone steps out in faith, trusts the rider and gets up on the back of their bike that they will truly understand for themselves.

God is just outside, revving the engine with an amazing trip planned for you. I pray that your response is to place your trust in Him, get on board and experience the ride for yourself.


*The Lord’s creation is perfect and functions reliably, just as it should, in every way. As such, I venture to suggest that our Heavenly Father would ride a BMW or Honda.

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