When Running Shoes are not Enough

My husband Chris bought his Harley Davidson, Dyna Superglide, on a warm September Saturday in 2013. He’d been dreaming most of his life of owning a motorcycle, yet for 23 of our 27 years of marriage I had been firmly set against his dream…it was simply too dangerous.

As a woman who grew up in a family culture that was steeped in fear, I had no difficulties imagining with great detail countless gruesome outcomes involving motorcycles, all of them ending in Chris’ death. I was confident in the statistics that justified my fears, and figured if Chris really loved me, surely he wouldn’t want to do anything that would increase my fears! (It is so painful, even four years later, writing that sentence, remembering how strongly I believed in and held to my position back then.)

My fear was challenged by an experience with a wild, kind man; a man who walked with us into the darkest and most fear-filled places of our marriage, exposing and naming them for what they were. That naming was necessary in order to begin to love more fully – because fear and love do not co-exist well. I saw how I had demanded that Chris take on my fears, and worse, that I wasn’t even willing to embrace the man he really was, because I had determined that was too dangerous.

Ironic how one of the first things that I noticed and loved about him – his fearlessness and willingness to take risks – that felt so different from the stifling confines of my family of origin, had now become something that threatened our relationship.

As self-awareness washed over me in a huge wave, I turned to look at this man I loved, but who I had been afraid to know very deeply, and I had a moment of insight that took my breath away. I remember saying to him that night, “You realize what this means? It means you’re going to have to get that motorcycle!” And we both knew it was right, one of those sacred moments that marked the beginning of a deeper, more knowing love for both of us.

It took Chris another two years after that experience to deal with his own ambivalence about pursuing his motorcycle dream. But by the time he roared out of the Harley dealership that day, he was a man who knew what he wanted and was fully ready to enjoy it. I joined him in his search and months of deliberating, letting my own sense of anticipation build. I didn’t want there to be any doubt for Chris that I loved his wildness, and wanted to face danger together with him, because really, there was something quite wild inside of me as well when I was willing to be honest.

when running shoes are not enough

Having lived most of my life in denial of the “renegade woman” inside me, crippled by anxious fear that kept me working hard to ensure safety, I was not fully prepared for what facing danger would look like for me. I got my first clue in response to the picture that I sent to that wild, kind man – a picture of Chris and I on his Harley, inviting him to celebrate with us, thanking him for his role in our story. He did celebrate the redemption in our story that was so evident in that picture; but his close study of it was also playfully evident in his last remark, “one critique: a badass woman doesn’t wear running shoes on a bike like that.” Indeed.

Clearly, more practice in embracing wildness and danger rather than fear was needed, and running shoes were not going to cut it! I did manage to find some pretty sweet biker boots, along with a classy, yet edgy leather motorcycle jacket. From that very first ride with Chris, perched on the back of his bike, with my arms wrapped around him, I have been amazed at how fear-less I have been. I do pray silently to myself as we accelerate out of the neighborhood, but my prayers are mostly full of gratitude for life, for the love of my wild husband, and for protection for our kids if anything were to happen to us. In those moments, I am not afraid of living fully.

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I am grateful for the invitation to step out of fear and risk facing the danger and wildness that comes with living fully, and being transformed more and more into the image of a wild and dangerous and loving God.


Janet Stark is a woman learning to embrace her depth and sensitivity.  Inspired by Mary pondering things in her heart, Janet writes about her experiences here. She is grateful for the deep love she shares with her husband of 26 years, as well as her 4 children and 2 grandchildren. She is a life-long lover of words and looks forward to reading and sharing at Red Tent Living.