I remember very clearly the first time I received my acceptance into the motorcycle community. My first bike wasn’t very big or fast, but it was mine.
You might have noticed that when two motorcycles pass each other on the road they throw out a little hand signal to each other. It’s almost always the same gesture, your left arm shoots out and down towards the ground while holding two fingers out like a peace symbol. It was only a few days after I had my bike that I began riding down city streets.
Early one cool spring morning I put on my helmet and riding gear and headed to work. As I was riding, I saw a much bigger bike in the distance, driven by a much bigger man.
I could tell right away he was the real deal. He had a big grey beard and a leather vest covered with patches. As we passed each other I watched with great anticipation to see if he would give me the “sign.” I had my doubts, though, surely he wouldn’t recognize me on my little bike. I’m just a novice, and I might as well have training wheels attached to the side.
Then, as we were about to pass, without even looking my way, he let go of his handlebar and threw me the sign.
I’m glad my visor covered my face because I was grinning like an idiot. “I’m in the gang now!” I thought to myself. My posture on my bike changed, I was no longer some little kid puttering about on his scooter; I was leather jacket-wearing man riding his steel horse full of thunder!
I’m on my fourth bike now; I ride a Harley Davidson that is so loud I have to wear ear plugs. Every time I see another bike approaching I throw out the sign instinctively. I don’t have to think about it. Now, it’s just habit.
But it still makes me smile because in a weird way it makes you feel like there is a group of people to whom you belong. No matter what else is going on, you know you just passed a stranger who understands you, and shares with you your love of the open road.
Recently, as I was taking my son to the store, we approached the steps of our front porch. He was talking away in his little voice the way he always does, but as we drew closer to the steps he reached his little hand up to mine without hesitation or even so much as a glance to see if I would be there to receive it. He knew by instinct that his father is always right there. He knows that the stairs can be dangerous for his short little legs and that without fear or anxiety he can overcome it as long as dad is there to hold his hand.
When I looked down, I noticed he always holds my same two fingers – my middle and index fingers. These are the same two thrown out when I see a motorcycle passing.
Just like how I throw out this silly hand gesture to a passing motorcyclist as a way to acknowledge our group bond, my son reaches his hand up because he knows he belongs to an even better group. I envy how effortlessly we can belong to so many different groups or families, but when it comes to belonging to the Kingdom of God we often struggle.
I believe this is one of the reasons God gave us prayer. Prayer often comes with a gesture of its own. Whether it be the clasping of our hands, the bowing of our heads, or simply the bending a knee, it is helpful for me to think of this gesture as a symbol of my belonging.
I know that when I reach my hand up in prayer, my heavenly Father is always close by to guide me through the dangers of life. I desire to repeat my gestures of prayer so often that simply by instinct I know not only that I belong but that God is with me.