The Angel on a Bicycle

“May I Tell You a Story?

Dick Duerksen
The Angel on a Bicycle

Karla was lost, so lost that she didn’t even recognize the trees along the road.

She had wanted to see the lions at the circus, but her father had said, “No!”

“The circus is not the right place for my daughter,” he had pronounced. “It is not a nice place, and the lions might hurt you.”

That made the lions seem all the more attractive to Karla, and she began imagining ways to slip out of the house to see the lions.

Late Sunday morning a guest came to the house and asked how to get to the house of Norma, the teacher.

“Teacher Norma’s moved, but I know how to get to her house, Daddy,” Karla replied jumping at the opportunity. “I’ll take the woman there.”

Father finally agreed, as long as Karla promised to come right back home. “Immediately!”

That sent Karla nearly sprinting across town to Norma’s new house, the visiting woman tripping along behind.

As soon as she had introduced the woman to Teacher Norma, Karla acted on her plan to disobey her father. Purposefully. Excitedly. The call of the lions was much stronger than her father’s command.

“Thanks for bringing this woman to me, Karla,” Teacher Norma said. “Now you better run back home quickly.”

“No need,” Karla lied to her teacher friend. “Daddy said I could take the long way home through the city.”

* * *

The “long way” just happened to run right to the visiting circus, around the balloon man, past people throwing baseballs at puppets, and up the hill to the lion cage.

“I was so excited that I hardly missed the coins I had to pay at the circus entry,” Karla told me, “but I was in a child’s hurry to see the lions. Real lions the people said. Real lions all the way from Africa!”

Lured by the lions, Karla wove her way through the circus tents to the sign that promised, “Leones de Africa.”

“When I got to the cage, I stood there in surprise and disappointment,” Karla said. “The lions were mangy, ugly, and so smelly that I was afraid I might throw up!”

Karla raced away from the lions, out through the circus gate and onto the crowded street. It was her town and she knew all the streets as well as an 8-year-old knows her own backyard. She passed the corner grocery, a petrol station, then lost track as she wandered into a part of town she did not know. All she could think of now was the smelly lions and the punishment she would receive when she got home.

“It was hours, from lunchtime all the way till the sun was setting,” Karla dried her eyes as she remembered the day. “At first I thought I would find a landmark just around the next corner. Then I realized I wasn’t recognizing anything and was totally, completely, absolutely lost. Now, I was really in trouble!”

There was a pause as Karla closed her eyes and played back the memory in her mind.

“You know,” Karla spoke with a crackly voice, “at school Teacher Norma had been trying to help me learn how to pray to God, especially when I was in trouble. But I hadn’t figured out how to put the words together. What I had learned, though, were the words in David’s sheep song—Psalm 23. So I repeated those words over and over, hoping God would hear me and know what I needed.”

The Lord is my Shepherd. He fills my every need . . .

“I was walking on a long dirt road with tall dark trees on both sides, a road I had never seen before, praying.”

The Lord is my Shepherd. He fills my every need . . .

“I was so terribly afraid that I sat down on a large rock and cried—sobs that promised a flood but brought only dusty body shakes.”

* * *

“Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder, the strong hand of a very big man. I looked up, found his eyes, and wanted to be afraid. But somehow I could not feel any fear. Only trust.”

The man was fat and strong, with a kind face. He was standing with one leg on each side of a bicycle.

“The big man picked me up, like a mother would pick up a small baby,” said Karla. “Then he wiggled me onto the rail of his bicycle and began to pedal down the road. I felt his chest breathing behind me, a powerful regular breathing that made me feel as if I had become part of his heart. Down below I saw his sandaled feet going round and round like a human machine carefully taking me somewhere safe.”

Karla felt so safe that she fell asleep on the fat man’s bicycle as he pedaled over gravel dirt to broken asphalt and finally to the solid stone road just a block from Karla’s house.

“He shook me awake, then helped me down onto my own home road. Just then my mother looked up from our front door! When she saw the fat man lift me off his bicycle, she screamed for me to run to her. I ran! Faster than an animal flying from a hungry lion! I ran so fast I even forgot to look around and thank the man on the bicycle.”

The bicyclist waited at the corner until Karla and her mother were reunited. Then he smiled and rode calmly around the corner to where they could not see him anymore.

Mother listened softly as Karla spilled the story of her disobedience, of her lies, of the stinking lions, the lost girl, and the kind man on a bicycle.

“Have you learned your lesson, Karlita?”

“Yes, Mama. I don’t want to ever lie again; and I want to obey you and Daddy.”

“Come in then,” Mother said. “I think it’s time for supper.”

Mother helped Karla go inside, but didn’t follow right away. Instead she stood on the porch, looking out toward where she had seen the kind man on a bicycle. Toward the stranger with strong arms and powerful legs. Toward the angel who just happened to know how to find lost little girls and bring them home.

Dick Duerksen, a pastor and storyteller living in Portland, Oregon, United States, is known around the world as “an itinerant pollinator of grace.”

Dick Duerksen