Years ago, I came across an interesting description of what it means to experience Christ:
There are “three essential elements to the Christ experience, which believers feel for the first time they experience Him: the joy of individualism, the chance to be free, to make choices; the commitment to adventure, the opportunity to change, to discover new experiences and emotions; the reward of fulfillment, an intense, personal and consuming bond with Christ that means a richer fuller life.”
I like that description. It covers a few of the things I’ve felt since committing my life to the Lord 9 years ago. The sense that I had the “chance to be free,” that the Lord knew me as an individual, not just a nameless person walking this planet, but as his son. That I now had “the opportunity to change,” after years of trying on my own, here was the real opportunity. And it has been all consuming, dropping me to my knees in wonder at how much “richer and fuller” my life has been as I live in his will.
There’s only one problem with that description. I didn’t find it in a book by Erwin McManus, or Phillip Yancey or Donald Miller.
That text came from the Harley-Davidson Brand Guidebook.
All I did was change the words “Harley-Davidson” and “the bike” to “Christ”, “ride” to “experience Him” and “riders” to “believers.”
Here’s how it was originally written: There are “three essential elements to the Harley-Davidson experience, which riders feel for the first time they ride: the joy of individualism, the chance to be free, to make choices; the commitment to adventure, the opportunity to change, to discover new experiences and emotions; the reward of fulfillment, an intense, personal and consuming bond with the bike that means a richer fuller life.”
That last line is my favorite. I can just see a neighbor leaning over the fence and asking his buddy, “How are you liking you’re new Harley?” The neighbor turns his head to smile at the bike and then says “I gotta tell ya, we’ve really formed a consuming bond that’s meant a richer fuller life for me.”
But according to research, that’s happening, sort of. Data shows that 95% of people that buy one Harley-Davidson buy a second Harley-Davidson. Why is their repeat purchase rate so absurdly high? Could it be that upon owning a Harley-Davidson, a man realizes that the motorcycle failed to deliver on the promise of a “richer fuller life?” Could it be that there’s a portion of the 640,000 Harley owners that think “I’m still lost. I’m still hurt. Maybe it’s the second motorcycle that will set me free.”
I like Harley Davidson, I think their advertising is brilliant. The last time I shared this idea I got impassioned emails from Harley owners who think I am awful. This is not about Harley. In fact I have friends who find riding their Harleys to be an experience where they feel closer to God. It’s their form of hiking or climbing a tall peak for the quietness and solitude. The open road can open hearts. But let’s not pretend for a second that there’s any purchase we should form a “consuming bond” and respect a fuller life.
Stuff is stuff.
At the end of the day, even the most amazing motorcycle is just a motorcycle. It’s steel and rubber and gas and oil. At best it will change your driveway, not your soul.