In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9
I know teachers like to plan and if you’re like me that starts as soon as the previous school year ends. What went well, what didn’t, and how to navigate the new year. Many times, though, God has a different plan.
Last summer, Carrie (my wife) and I rode our bicycles from Denver, CO to Yorktown, VA. We had our overall plans, like when we hoped to be in Virginia; but each day we would look at our map, look at the weather, and see how we felt. Once we did that, we had our plan. On Day 15 we planned to ride from Hartville, MO to Summerville, MO, about 60 miles. If we felt good, maybe even to Eminence, another 25 miles.
We got an early start from a church we stayed at in Hartville. It was hilly, but we were getting used to it, and feeling pretty good. We were glad the traffic was light, and the trucks and cars were very courteous on this stretch of the road; not what we heard from cyclists we talked to heading west. Just before Houston, MO, going through a lot of debris on a very wide shoulder, I got a flat. We found a nice shady spot next to a long driveway to sit and repair the tire. If you must repair a flat, these conditions were pretty good.
I decided to patch the thorn proof tube that was on the bike. Everything went well, or so we thought, and we headed to Houston. In Houston we decided to eat early, around 11:00 am at a Taco Bell. After lunch, we took off for Summersville, another 25 miles.
Four miles outside of Houston, my tire was flat again. This time there was no shady spot and it was hot! I pulled out my spare tube and realized that it was not new but patched as well. I put the tube on and it started to leak at an old patch. I repaired the original, and it leaked. I was getting extremely frustrated. Was it bad glue or bad patches? Nothing worked.
As we were attempting to move to a shady spot down the road, a pick-up pulled up. Julius, a local, got out and asked if there was anything he could do to help us. We decided we needed to get back to Houston and look up Wes. We had heard of Wes from some westbound cyclists earlier in the week. We’d also heard of Wes from Dave, who helped us the night before in Hartville. Julius knew Wes, and we gave him a call. Wes was out of town, and he gave us directions and what to do when we got to his place. Julius was awesome and helped us load our bikes and gear in the back of truck.
At Wes’s, we had a small bunkhouse to ourselves. It had a bed, kitchen, bathroom (with shower), and laundry; everything we could possibly need, except an inner tube for my bike. All of mine were shot, and there was no bicycle shop in town.
Wes arrived, introduced himself and called a couple of cycling friends he had to see if they could help. They had tubes, but not the right size. Wes suggested the Wal-Mart in town. I had my doubts about Wal-Mart having the right tube, a 700x35 with a presta valve, but at least I could get some new patches. Wes drove us to Wal-Mart, and I was shocked they had the right tube. I bought three.
We decided to stay at Wes’s bunkhouse. We showered and did laundry. For dinner, we took Wes to a local BBQ place he recommended. We all drove together in his truck.
What an awesome guy! He had lost his wife, Judy, to breast cancer 8 months earlier, after a two-year battle. He told us how he and his wife would host cyclists passing through, up until her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. As believers, they had the gift of hospitality. From what he told us, we would have loved to have met Judy. Wes was now just beginning to host cyclists passing through again. We had a wonderful evening of conversation and sharing. Wes told us the next morning as we were leaving to share his name with other cyclists heading west. We kept in touch with Wes throughout our journey and beyond.
The day was not what we planned, but what a blessing! God’s plans are so much more than our plans. As I head into this new school year, I need to remember this. Those small hiccups, or major failures in our plans, may be an opportunity to be used by God for his plan.
Tony Harman, Yuma Lutheran School, Yuma, AZ