On Motorcycles, Malaysia, and Missions

Thanks to the influence of coming from a family of boys, I’ve dreamt of riding/driving a motorcycle ever since I was maybe 12. Finally mustered up enough courage to get my permit last spring, and cruising the back roads nearby was easily a highlight of last summer. Wobbly and unsteady as I was (am), riding motorcycle had a certain amount of danger to it that made me feel adventurous and free.

Then I spent some time in Asia over the winter and had a not-so-pleasant motorbike crash a few days before my scheduled departure back to the States. It was rough going for a couple weeks, but I was excited about the day the dark wound on my foot would be healed enough and the day would be warm enough to go on a ride. Finally convinced dad it was time to go one day, and got all prepped and ready for the ride. My soaring expectations were dashed as we drove through the usual back roads route. Instead of adventure and freedom, all I felt was fear. Crippling fear. Every corner brought back haunting images of sliding on the loose gravel around a small bend on a Thai country road, my ill judgement on how fast I was going, and the shock of pain as blood oozed everywhere. This wasn’t the accident. But my mind was obsessing over it. We’re going to crash. We’re going to crash. I just know it.

It made me a bit upset. Why did something I had anticipated for so long turn sour so fast? A few weeks later I tried it again, this time with my brother, Ryan. Again, it was the same fear haunting my mind and making me feel stiff and wobbly around every corner. I wanted to relocate to some far corner of the world that never used any form of motorized bike and everyone only walked very slowly everywhere or drove the little electric scooters that you see in Wal-Mart. It seemed much safer and uneventful.

The problem is that I wanted to like motorcycle rides again, I really did. The Wal-Mart scooter world only seemed pleasant for so long. I would have had to leave there sometime. For the third attempt, we drove up to the Pinnacle. On winding, curvy roads, I bunched my hands up tight as we went around corners and inwardly gave myself pep talks while attempting to diagnose the unprecedented fear. Alicia, what’s going on? Do you trust your brother? You do remember he has a much better driving record than you, right? Are you going to keep facing your fear so that one day you enjoy motorcycle drives again?

Reaching a sharp corner I leaned closer to Ryan, close enough to reach out and hold on to him for dear life if necessary. In that instant, I suddenly realized why it was so scary. Earlier, I hadn’t been leaning in. Focusing so heavily on fear, I forgot that the best form for sharp corners was leaning down and in. In this position I felt safer, more protected. The fear didn’t leave instantly, but somehow the knowledge that I could feel protected on a motorcycle began to go to my head. On our ride back, I made hand waves in the wind as we drove a straight stretch of road, and felt the joy seeping in again. It wasn’t completely back yet, but it was coming.

If I wanted to sum up my experience in mission life so far, insert the word missions in place of motorcycle and you would have most of the story. Wanting to “do missions” ever since I was a young girl, anticipating it, trying it out for several years, only to have my idealism shattered, all messy things oozing everywhere. If you’ve read some of my previous posts on this, a lot of the messiness had to do with coming face to face with my own brokenness and learning how to live more honestly. Getting back on the mission bandwagon has felt scary, like I’m waiting for something terrible to happen that will crush me yet again. Every little hiccup fills me with fear, holding my breath for something worse than the last time. I want to run to some corner of the world where everyone is perfect and nothing is required of me except to wake up and smell roses.

The problem is that I want to “like” missions again, no matter how hard, frustrating, scary, or impossible it seems. I can’t hypothetically smell the roses forever. It’s only in the past year that I have begun to discover the audacious hope for moving forward. Leaning into Jesus brings healing. He is really good at being a Healer. At showing up in the places that are terrifying- the loose gravel corners, if you will- He isn’t afraid of the mess and ill judgement that’s there. It is a painfully slow, gradual business- this healing stuff. Like a flower working to blossom, it means effort and honest searching and letting friends speak truth and depth into your life (I guess flowers don’t actually need that part, but you get the idea).

In the first chapter of Matthew, the angel tells Joseph that the God-child coming to earth will be called “Immanuel,” which means, “God with us.” (Matt. 1:23)

God with us.

When life seems raw and uncertain. When my unrealistic expectations of missionary life crash with reality, because the truth is that I can’t actually save the world no matter how much I may want to. He draws me out to be faithful and free inside; to love Him more so I can love others better. Those two things cannot and are not perfected overnight. I’m learning to take these shaky steps towards a clearer future. It probably won’t be void of pain or disappointment. But it’s okay. He is with us.

I’m ready to learn how to lean in again. And that means a hypothetical motorcycle ride and a real move to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with all its dangerous beauty of never knowing what the results will be. It’s peculiar and wonderful to be so excited about this upcoming chapter. Most days I don’t really know how to depict it all. It’s something so far beyond myself, it always will be, and maybe I’m learning to be just a little more okay with that. I read THIS book recently and am keeping the words below from Jena Nardella as a reminder to keep walking. I want to keep leaning in and learning and growing- whether it’s on a motorcycle or a Wal-Mart scooter.

“One might imagine that I’ve changed, that along with my vision… came a new courage, an undiscovered gutsiness, a joy in taking risks. The truth is, I’ve never felt equipped to do anything extraordinary in my life. I battle fear every time I get on a plane. I experience so much failure and self-doubt that I have come to expect it. But the path… taught me that it’s less about having it all together and more about the unwavering commitment to keep walking…My faith is messier now than it once was. My questions are bigger. Some of my convictions have eased into mystery, even as my understanding of God has grown… we are not called to change the world. We are called to love the world. And to love the world, we are the ones who must change.” (Jena Lee Nardella)

Check out a glimpse of what I’m joining HERE!



4 thoughts on “On Motorcycles, Malaysia, and Missions

  1. This was incredible! You’re an amazing writer. I relate to love of motorcycles AND missions, so when you flipped the story like that, it stunned me in a good way.
    Thank you for sharing this!! It’s really encouraging.

  2. Love your thoughts, Alicia, and the analogy. You really are a good writer! And I’m so glad that Father is bringing the vision back, even if it’s tough, and that you can be excited about it.

    It reminds me of our conversation about idealism the other day, and this quote: “Wherever I have travelled I have found that young people are idealistic…. I can only conclude that it is the way God wants them to be. We offend against charity and justice, and against commonsense too, when we sneer at starry-eyed idealism. We do it to our own loss.” Starry-eyed idealism may not hold up too good against the crashes in life, but I hope as God matures us it can come back as a more refined vision, if we don’t build up walls of cynicism against it.

    But… I also identify with your fleeting desire to move to a country where “everyone only walked very slowly everywhere or drove the little electric scooters that you see in Wal-Mart.” :’)

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