In all my years of living in the United States of America, I cannot remember ever seeing (in this country, at least), a woman driving a motorcycle with a man riding behind her. On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of men and women each riding motorcycles by themselves, and a number of women riding on motorcycles where men were driving. (OK, so there was one time where I wasn’t sure because both riders were wearing helmets, but that’s a long shot.)
I’m not saying that any of these situations are wrong. There’s no law against a man riding as a passenger on a motorcycle that a woman is driving. I won’t pretend to suggest that men or women are better drivers, but I’m confident that there are millions of skilled female motorcycle drivers (see the DOT report at the end of this article1).
So, why haven’t I seen this particular scenario? For one thing, my research suggests that only about 10% of motorcycle owners are women. However, that – in itself – is not enough to explain my observations. The remaining component appears to be simply cultural. In the United States, woman driving a motorcycle with a male passenger is just not something that is normally done. (Note that the trend doesn’t hold up in other countries, especially throughout Asia.)
In the days of Jesus, there were also some cultural norms. For instance, women would retrieve and carry water (see John 4:7, or even go back to Genesis 24:17-18). When Jesus was about to celebrate the Jewish Passover feast with his disciples for the last time before His crucifixion, though, He told them to look for an interesting sign:
And He sent two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”‘ And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; prepare for us there.”
Mark 14:13-15 NASB
Now, we don’t know a lot about this water-carrying guy, but he was there when the disciples looked for him, just as Jesus had said. (It sounds to me like Jesus had arranged for the use of this banquet room ahead of time.) Whether the water-carrier was counter-cultural (much as many of Jesus’ teachings were), or just willing to do his share of the preparations, his actions were significant enough that the disciples could find him.
In the same way, though, maybe followers of Jesus need to be willing to be a little more counter-cultural – to do things that aren’t “cool” or “socially acceptable”. There is such a thing as being polite and respecting the local cultural norms, but sometimes God calls us to something better:
- Maybe there’s someone “uncool” in your life that needs you to stop and share a friendly conversation.
- Perhaps there’s an unpleasant task that others in your situation wouldn’t stoop “down” to, but needs to be done.
- In those awkward moments when a volunteer is required, but everyone is avoiding eye contact with the requester, you might be the one who needs to step up.
- Or, there could be a choice in front of you that’s considered old-fashioned or weird, but is still the right choice to make.
So, if you feel that holy pull in a certain direction, don’t be afraid to step outside of what others expect as “normal”. Be bold to do the right thing.
And, if you’re a biking couple, and you happen to pull up next to me someday with her driving and him riding, be sure and wave! After all, in addition to making your own decisions, maybe you will be doubling as a sign from God for me that day.