Tuesday and Wednesday of this week I spent taking the Basic Rider Course at the Honda Rider Education Center in Irving, TX. The instructors for all such classes are certified by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and use standardized curriculum to ensure that all student training conforms to the set standards whereby the successful completion will waive the riding portion of a motorcycle license examination. I enjoyed the class immensely, and was glad to hear that the particular facility I took the course from has standards that exceed many others as far as rider safety and competency is concerned.
I find that I'm willing to accept a certain degree of risk in the ways I enjoy my pursuits, but if unnecessary risk is not marginalized by safe practice then the enjoyment drops off sharply. Riding a motorcycle, for me anyway, will accomplish two purposes. It will obviously be a second means of transportation (our family only has one car), but it will also be fun. Not just "fun" though; it's a means of traveling that will challenge me to maintain a much more heightened sense of my surroundings. Every reflex is honed and all the senses brought to bear when riding. It demands of me a greater awareness, attention to detail, astuteness, tactical intuition and reaction timing than driving will ever require.
In this way it seems almost parabolic to the new pastoral responsibilities I carry. One does not "muscle" the bike into a turn, but instead gently presses the grip in the direction of the turn and then moves with the bike. In negotiating obstacles, swerving becomes almost a dance with the machine to which you are attached. Procedurally, one can drill safety practices over and over, but it needs to evolve into that intangible collection of sensory registers that can only be summarized as a "feel." There's a "feel" to riding that transcends mere steps in the book. That is why I'm so thankful that the course entailed so much riding time on the practice range. As students, we were given the opportunity to taste of the "feel" of the bike and riding it through the various exercises.
I believe institutions such as Dallas Theological Seminary could greatly benefit from having more motorcycle riders, and especially MSF certified instructors, among those who plan curriculum. Students preparing for ministry must be given more opportunities to experience the "feel" of moving with the Church and serving her as Christ would require. Students should "feel" the church like a dance partner negotiating obstacles and hazards, tasting of the joy that comes from the exhilaration of riding that cannot be duplicated in class. I'm experiencing some of those joys even now. How great might it have been to have spent more time in seminary getting ready for the fun of serving the Church in like manner that I got ready to ride in Irving.
Yesterday I went down to the Rockwall branch of the DMV and passed my written exam, receiving my motorcycle operator's license on the spot. I'm ready to ride! In seminary though, because I have not yet graduated, that "license" is still ahead. Nevertheless, I plan to enjoy the remainder of my DTS training knowing how it will help me "dance" with the church through our various twists and turns, realizing that we have somewhere to go and it's OK to have fun getting there.