About five miles earlier I was at the gate of Camp Pendleton on my road bike. I was with my youth pastor from my high school days, another adult volunteer and a student. We were told that the camp, which is usually used as the only passable road biking rout into Oceanside, was closed for the day. When we asked what the alternate rout was the guard simply pointed to the 5-freeway…almost like he had been doing it all day.
Most Lance Armstrong types probably didn’t think twice about this little trek. In fact I was pretty pumped for the challenge. I had ridden a lot of places but never on the 5. I think I even said something stupid like, “well guys, I guess this ride will separate the men from the boys.” Within five minutes I was peddling with a death grip on my bars crying my eyes out repeating, “I don’t want to die, God don’t let me die.” As it turns out, riding on the freeway is kind of scary. I remember a greyhound bus passing me at what seemed like 100mph. The wind nearly blew me off my bike.
When we finally made it into the rest area, alive but shaken. I looked to Joe, my old youth pastor, as if to say, “what next smart guy?” I was a little mad. Joe said, “We just need to pray.” I thought no we need a car, we need a phone, we need a ride but we don’t need to pray. I think I was in my second year as a youth pastor at the time. Maybe it was the near death experience but praying just seemed like a waste of time. Joe ended up praying, and I don’t remember really what he said. But the power of prayer isn’t so much in what is said but how God responds.
Within about a minute of saying, “amen,” I was still upset, and I saw Joe walk up to a red van. It just happened to be a 15-passenger Youth With a Mission van. It just happened to have the rear two rows of seats pulled out and the driver just happened to pull up while we were praying.
The rest of the ride into Oceanside and the rest of the bike ride to San Diego, I couldn’t get my mind off the fact that God must have created that moment just for me. Almost as if God just wanted to show me what is possible when I talk to him. In showing me the possibilities God also exposed within me the need to do things myself, without praying or submitting. Probably not the best strategy for a youth pastor, but this was the day that God changed all of that.
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”