This year, my most difficult sacrifice during Great Lent was my first motorcycle. Please feel free to skip this particular blog entry if motorcycles are not your thing, but here is my first bike pictured to the left. It is a 2011 Honda CBR 125 in grey and racing orange. A tad underpowered for its 300-pound build, this was the last year Honda manufactured the 125 for the North American market.
I had been wrestling with the decision to sell it since purchasing a new Indian Scout two years’ ago. I did not need two motorcycles. Which is why I repeatedly felt challenged by the following words of Pope Francis: “Let us not seek for ourselves more than we need, but rather what is good for others, and nothing of value will be lacking to us.”
I had convinced myself to keep my CBR as a local commuter vehicle for a number of reasons. It sipped gas at approximately 100 miles to the gallon. It was cheap on insurance. And its light and maneuverable design made commuting in our small town fun during warm weather months.
But mostly, if I am honest with myself, it was due to all the memories invested.
For my first four years learning to ride a motorcycle, this bike had proven itself reliable. With a look much faster than its actual speed, I was forced to learn gear-shifting up and down at intervals of approximately 10 miles per hour. The bike also kept me honest as an admitted adrenaline junkie–it lacked the power to take me much beyond the speed limit of most secondary highways, which in turn kept me off Canada’s 400-series highways. The latter are loosely the equivalent of the U.S. Interstate system. Being limited to the posted speed on secondary highways is an important feature when one is the father and sole breadwinner of a family with seven children.
What troubles me is that I don’t know why selling the Honda seemed like such a personal sacrifice. On paper it made perfect sense. As you can see from its picture to the left, the Indian Scout is larger and with a lower centre of gravity. This makes the Scout more stable for highway driving. And this is before I added saddle bags, highway bars, and floorboards further lowering its centre of gravity, while increasing its long-distance riding comfort and luggage capacity. The Scout is powerful enough to take on major highways, even when loaded down with luggage. And just as important when one is middle-aged, it is more comfortable on one’s butt and on one’s back for long rides–both for myself and for my passenger.
In terms of financial consideration, the Scout’s gas mileage was about two-thirds that of the smaller CBR. This is still quite a bit lower than that of either family van. And insurance was only a couple hundred bucks a year more now that I had four years riding experience and my full motorcycle license. So while owning one bike pays for itself in terms of less wear-and-tear on larger vehicles and less gas burned when it is only me or a passenger and me travelling, I was not saving any money by holding on to two bikes.Finally, as if God had not given me enough reason to heed our Holy Father’s call not to seek more than what we need, the resale value of the Honda was exactly the amount I needed to pay off our mortgage. So selling it benefitted others–and in this case the relationships closest to me–by re-injecting our weekly mortgage payments back to the family budget.
Yet none of these considerations mentioned so far are spiritual.
From a spiritual vantage point, here it is we are entering the final week of Great Lent, what our Latin brothers and sisters call Holy Week. My focus ought to be on our Lord Jesus Christ. It ought to be on His crucifixion and His resurrection, on His triumph over sin and death. My focus ought to be on Jesus’s great act of mercy toward me as a sinner.
But despite many more important blessings in life–a loving wife and seven beautiful children, good health and stable middle-class employment with benefits, two wonderful and family-focused local faith communities (one Byzantine about 35 minutes away and the other Latin and within walking distance of our home and office), and a comparatively large residence in a friendly low crime community with a small public school whose reputation rivals that of the best private schools regionally–I still find myself grieving the sale of my first motorbike. The loss of this mere want is overshadowing what is of true value to my life, as well as what is good for others who God has placed in my life closest to me.
Thus it was time to let go of my first motorcycle.“He who has genuinely renounced worldly things, and lovingly and sincerely serves his neighbour, is soon set free from every passion and made a partaker of God’s love and knowledge,” states St Maximos the Confessor. I found giving it up more painful than fasting from flesh meat and cutting back seriously on dairy (Because of my highly active lifestyle I am still working up to the full fast). In fact, despite it still being too wintery in Ontario to ride a motorcycle, I even found walking away from my Honda CBR more difficult than walking away from online flame wars currently dividing Catholics over Pope Francis and American politics.
When one is this attached to a possession this unnecessary to one’s true happiness, it is time to let it go. Thankfully, as I watched its new owner drive away with it over the weekend, I realized God had given me this opportunity to approach Pascha with one fewer distractions. Being the poor sinner that I am, please pray that I make the best of this opportunity to grow closer to God and to others.