A Lesson from Joe


Several summers ago, I quit a cycling journey and found myself sitting 121 Miles from Yellowstone waiting for a ride to come pick me up. This difficult journey offered many lessons. Some lessons had wounds to match.

I learned my loaded bike couldn’t traverse gravel; road rash on my hand was proof.

I learned bees nest under electric hook-ups at campgrounds; swollen fingers and a cracked iPad were evidence.

I learned pitching your tent on green grass in the desert isn’t the smartest thing to do. The lush lawn of the community park of Carey, Idaho was an attractive place to camp. The kind lady in the neighboring restaurant suggested I camp there; others I chatted with affirmed her suggestion. Scoping out the scene, I noticed a pavilion with locked restrooms. A posted sign provided names and phone numbers of people who could unlock the door. No one picked up the first number I called. The second name on the list was Joe. Joe answered and said, “I’ll be there in 15 minutes.”

A John Deere tractor pulled in the driveway; perched atop was a short, tubby, older gentleman wearing a cowboy hat.

I thought, This must be Joe.

Dismounting his green, mechanical steed, we shook hands and exchanged small-talk as Joe unlocked the bathroom door.

Before he left, Joe gave an appreciated warning, “The sprinklers on the west side of the pavilion come on at 9:00.”

I looked to my left and saw the sun setting on that side of the pavilion, looked to my right and saw my campsite, and replied, “Well, I’m on the east side.”

Joe didn’t say a word.

With dusk approaching, I set up my tent, made my bed, laid across my sleeping bag and marveled at the pink and orange hues painted across an ever darkening blue sky behind the mountains I would be climbing the next day. I quickly fell asleep.

“Psh, Pshh, Pshhhh, Pshhhhhhhhh.”

My eyes slowly opened. Emerging from the cloudiness of a mind shaking off sleep was the thought, There’s the sprinklers Joe was talking about. A dull remnant of light from the descended sun allowed me to see jets of water shoot across the lawn on the far side of the pavilion. I went back to sleep.

“Psh, Pshh, Pshhhh, Pshhhhhhhhh.”

I jolted upright. No sun was needed to reveal the liquid mine field that surrounded me. The cold rush slapping across my face proclaimed, “Joe didn’t tell you the whole story!!”

About every ten seconds two jets fired across my tent. A lull followed as they made their rounds. Clad only in my boxer-briefs (don’t judge–I was sleeping in the desert!), I rolled out of my tent like a soldier in a battlefield. Standing up, my timing was obviously off as water shot across my face. Stunned, I shook my head and began prancing around the wet lawn. Juking left and right in a futile attempt to remain dry, I first relocated my bike and gear.

I then un-staked my tent and pulled it to dry ground. Unzipping the flap to crawl back inside, suddenly everything was bright. My hunched body froze and my head turned to see two glowing orbs. Headlights illuminated my fluorescent white skin. Like a raccoon I scurried back inside.

My now wet sleeping bag squished under my back. I breathed deeply. My body shivered as my mind tried to interpret everything that had just happened. Hearing the crunch of gravel I sat up, peeked out the window-netting, and saw a black truck drive away.

All was quiet except for the swoosh of the sprinklers.

I wondered, Who was that?

Maybe teenagers. There can’t be much to do in Carey on a Wednesday night!

Then a slightly troubling, but equally amusing thought hit me.


I imagined him erupting with great big, belly laughs exclaiming to his wife, “Told you we were in for a show tonight, honey!”

Difficulties teach lessons…Here are a few I learned on my journey:

  1. There are some things in which we should persevere, no matter the cost. The gospel is worth sacrifice. People are worth persistence. Not everything however falls into this category. Sometimes persevering only magnifies our strength; it doesn’t glorify God.

  2. Change isn’t easy. Just as it takes time for muscles to adapt so it does for the mind–there will be soreness.

  3. In the beginning God made man, but then He gave him Eve. We weren’t created to be alone. We were programmed for companionship. Moses had Aaron. Paul had Luke. Jesus had Peter, James, and John. Frodo had Samwise!

  4. God doesn’t want me to be unsettled, anxious, worried, or fretting. He wants me to have fun, to be happy.

  5. If you’re miserable, then something’s gotta change!

  6. There’s nothing wrong with needing enjoying people.

  7. Abundant Life (Matthew 16:25); Sacrifice (John 15:13); Love (1 Corinthians 13); Generosity (1 Timothy 6:18-19).

  8. Our love is a bottle rocket. His love is a mega fireworks show. (Thought after seeing someone watching some rockets shot from a yard while behind them a city-wide fireworks show was in full swing).

Oh yeah…one more lesson. Don’t camp on green grass in the desert.

Thanks Joe!