As far back as I can remember, I have had a vivid imagination. I remember spending hours upon hours playing with my soldiers, or cowboys and Indians, where, I would play out scenes from imaginary movies, complete with dialogue, plot, and ending. During the summer, sometimes the soldiers or cowboys play would last for days, much to the chagrin of my mom, who would get upset about the plastic figures left all over our Florida Room.
I also would play with my baseball cards, and would set a card at each position on an imaginary field on the floor and play a nine-innings game using a Reynolds Wrap ball that I would toss at a card in the batter’s box.
Occasionally, however, that vivid imagination has gotten the best of me, as it did last week when I rode my wife's Trek 800 15-speed mountain bike for the first time, after a two-year hiatus (I gave her the bike as a gift several years ago but probably use it more than her).
Now, the reason for not riding the bicycle wasn’t a promise I made to God or that I misplaced it. It was because the chain broke and it took me that long to finally getting around to having it fixed. Let’s just say I’m not a proponent of the motto that states, “Why wait until tomorrow when you can do it today.” As my wife freely tells friends, it takes me a while to get around to doing things on “my time.” Making it worse, “my time,” is sometimes when nobody else has done it and I have no choice!
Anyway, my break from riding started one cool (by Miami standards) fall morning in 2009.
I woke up at 5:45AM, as I normally do on days I work out. I remember, that particular morning, I didn’t feel like running and decided to give my knees a break and go biking instead. It was a decision I was making on a regular basis during the weeks leading up to that morning.
For several days, however, I was noticing that, as I approached a stop, and slowed down the bike, the chain would drop and, as I started pedaling again, the gear would not catch immediately and would spin about halfway into a rotation before finally catching and allowing me to thrust forward.
Putting that aside, I was going down my routine 8-mile ride, in which I go down a relatively busy boulevard (although not at that time of the morning) for about 4 miles to the outskirts of the University of Miami. I turn right in front of the school, past a coed jogger or two, the old man and woman waiting at the bus stop and continue to Alex Rodriguez Park. I turn right and start heading back towards my house, up to Miller Dr., the road I took when I attended UM, turn left past St. Augustine Catholic Church and at the corner, turn right and follow that road almost all the way back home.
As I turned on the corner past St. Augustine, about three miles from my house (I usually run 3.5 miles), I slowed down, and felt the chain drop. I started pedaling and the gear wouldn’t catch. I thought to myself, “It’s going to catch,” and kept spinning the pedals as I tried to keep my balance and the bicycle kept slowing down until it was practically at a standstill.
“It’s going to catch. It has to catch.” I kept pedaling.
I guess, I was like a hamster spinning on a wheel, only a lot bigger and fatter. After several minutes, of going nowhere fast, my thighs started burning, and I had to step down. “Now what?” I thought.
I pushed off again and started spinning again. Nothing. Obviously, it wasn’t going to happen.
I looked at my watch. It was about 6:25A and my wife and kids were going to be getting up at in about 20 minutes to start getting ready for school and work. I figured that if I wasn’t home, they would wonder where I was (and maybe even start worrying).
Therefore, despite my reluctance to run that morning, since I wanted to get home as soon as possible, I had no choice. I started running, while holding the bike by the handlebar and rolling it next to me.
By then, the sun started to come out and, as I reached a busy intersection, I realized that I must have been a sight for sore eyes; a chunky 40-something-year old man in an athletic fitted dry-fit shirt, sweating profusely and running next to an empty bike (fortunately I don’t own biking shorts!).
I never rode the bike again until last week.
Moreover, I must say, as eventful as that last ride was, my first time back on a bicycle seat was almost as interesting.
In fact, for last part of the ride, I thought God was sending me a divine message (which I was having trouble figuring out!).
As I said, my imagination sometimes gets the best of me and it did that morning. As I came around past the University of Miami and turned on the corner of Alex Rodriguez Park, I started to feel drops, which I first thought, were raindrops. However, as I kept being pelted by wet-less drops, I realized they were like white flakes.
At this point, it got a little surreal. As I pedaled under trees, I felt the flakes but in the open sky, I was also feeling the white flakes. “What are they?” I started being covered in the tiny droppings on my arms, chest, and hair.
That’s where my imagination started to get the best of me. What first crossed my mind is, this must have been what manna looked like to the Israelites during the forty years they wondered in the wilderness after Moses led them out of Egypt (not that I had any idea but only imagined what manna would look like).
"Manna? Did I just think manna?" Then my mind started racing faster then my legs. "Is God sending me a message?" I read of people smelling or finding roses that they believed were signs from St. Theresa of Little Flower or our Blessed Mother but manna? "Have I been chosen for some special mission?"
Let's face it, as most Christians know, public revelation ended with the last Apostle. Still, while not tenets of our faith, millions of Catholics around the world believe that over the last two millenniums, the Lord has sent messages through certain individuals, not to improve or complete the teachings of the Apostles, but to guide them to live more fully during certain periods in history. St. Faustina Kowalska and St. Bernadette are some examples.
"Was I getting a private revelation? What was the Lord trying to tell me? What does He want from me?" I started trying to meditate and open my mind to God’s voice. I only heard silence (but for the noise of traffic in the distance).
By that time, the I stopped feeling the flakes land on me. "Maybe, this is all in my mind," I thought. "Probably, by the time I got home, these white things will have disappeared. Why would God choose me? But, then again, why not?" I was having a full fledged internal debate in my head.
I kept pedaling and, when I finally got home, my family was still asleep. I still had some flakes on my arms.
I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror; my hair was full of the miniscule white pieces. As I looked closely, I saw one of the flakes started moving. "What? Oh my; they were little winged insects."
In an instance, I went from being a messenger of God (in my own mind of course) to being the butt of some Heavenly late night show skit. Talk about spiritual pride and ego! I guess there will not be a St. Carlos of Coral Gables any time soon.
Maybe, this is God's way of suggesting, I go back to running (or, more importantly, that I try to live with a little more humility). Ouch...