Anyone who does not think church is an adventure has never been on Tour de Faith.
Each year, Wesley Foundation’s annual bike trip brings a new set of surprises, from McDonald’s mercy to killer deer to Amish girls on 10-speeds that leave the rest of us in the dust. These serendipities are often as bizarre as they are unplanned. This year, they included flying mammals.
After three days and 140 miles of biking, our 2012 Tour de Faith crew was showing the signs of wear. Most of us moved like particularly anemic zombies, ones with bright red skin and serious personal chafing. An hour after dinner, only pride kept us from going straight to bed.
That, and bats.
The first one emerged after dinner, when most of our group was staking their territory in the fellowship hall of Thomasville United Methodist Church. It made its rounds for a few minutes before someone managed to snag it with a towel and release it outside.
The second was a bit more fiendish. It waited until just before lights out to take flight among us. So worn out were we that it might have gone unnoticed, had not it been for the cry of “Bat!” from one of the men.
Gripped by fatigue, we weren’t quick to process his meaning. We had spent a good portion of the day yelling at one another, things like “Car back!” and “Metal!” and “Bump!” These were clear warnings that required specific (usually evasive) action.
But judging from the various reactions among us, “Bat!” didn’t immediately compute. Some took it to mean “Grab your phones and open the camera app.” Others understood it as, “Scream and cover your head.” One apparently heard in that single word a summons to raise his hands and call sweetly to the bat in hopes of petting it.
The poor bat wasn’t doing much better. It swooped from one end of the room to another, looking for an exit but finding only more squeals and smartphones. It dove among the groups of people, without malice and clearly disoriented. Finally, after a few dozen tries, someone threw a towel in the bat’s path. It fell to the floor, trapped. A few of the guys wrapped it up and led it outside.
And then it was over, except for the farcical interviews on the same smartphones. We settled into our sleeping bags. The bat flew off to eat bugs. I’m sure we were both happier for the parting.
I fell asleep thinking about the bat, looking—as all writers do—for the metaphor or life lesson in its visitation. And I dreamt thankful dreams, grateful for the friends who take me in when I’m confused and out of control, then release me back to where I belong.