As I shifted gears while working out on my bike in beautiful Henderson, Nevada, in a flash I saw myself riding my bike throughout America. God spoke to my heart, “William, c’mon with me and shift your gears throughout America, inspiring everyone you meet to Shift to Greatness!” I could see the white lines slowly passing me by as I made my way from west to east. It would be an epiphany that would grab my heart in a deep way and would not let me go. My heart would beat as I thought about it, and it would become my passion and purpose until I had completed this epic journey in which God would allow me to “Astonish” Him and encourage others to do the same.
Only one person could tell me that I couldn’t ride my bike for thousands of miles, stay at strangers’ homes, ask people what was great about them, create new friendships, eat new foods, and discover things about myself and others that I never knew. Me. I find that we are the only ones who can kill a vision that God gives us.
Why would God beacon me to climb on a bike and climb unbelievable hills on one side, and scream down the other at nearly forty miles per hour with cars next to me a few feet away? Why risk my very life at fifty-three, with no idea of where my new life would take me? This was totally unhinged and absolutely contrary to what intelligent people do—and especially religious people. What drove me to this point and why such a radical move? As I revisit my experience while preparing to continue my journey, I have come to understand why—God is an adventurer and He is always trying to wake us up from our own disgust, boredom, and self-destructive habits that trap us in cycles that keep us in circles of pain, the same faces of people, and in bondage to the deep demonic voice of condemnation.
After staying with my dad for a few months during a season of transition from a personal and traumatic experience of an unwanted divorce after nearly thirty years of marriage, God knew I needed a “crazy and unhinged” adventure. I could remain in a safe place of the usual and expected, or I could break out with: Yes, Lord, I’ll go. That’s exactly what I did, and that’s what you’ll have to do for God to be astonished by you. If you’re looking for another safe book to just blow you away with someone else’s revelation and experience for you to live through while you keep avoiding God’s invitation for your own adventure so that you can keep your comfy lifestyle, your toys, friends who enjoy your pitiful company, and a safe church that preaches an “Americanized God,” close the book and give it to someone else who you think might want Astonishment. They will get it and then get after it. Truth is, many of us are afraid of “getting it.” As a result, even though God is speaking to us, our weak faith won’t let us answer. It is why Jesus would say, “O ye of little faith.” He then moves on and shows someone else. It takes a deep hunger and a thirst after righteousness, and only those who want it will be filled with Astonishment.
Astonished! is about allowing God to “experience you” through your personal, painful, joyous, and triumphant journey of faith. It gives no painkillers, excuses, or religious justifications as to why you can’t. Whether through a bike trek across America, facing a devastating sickness, the building of a company, a suffering relationship with children, divorce, a prolonged spiritual wilderness, the bliss of a new marriage, or wherever you might be in your life, God wants to be Astonished by your faith. This can only happen when we pull the veils of our hearts back and allow God in—more, and more, and more. That means less of our judgments about ourselves, or more of receiving His unconditional love. When we do that, we will stop being critical of ourselves, and as a result, of others. We will experience a deepening love of God toward us that transcends our faults. We will then be quickened by His Spirit to love ourselves and find a rhema grace that we receive from God Himself for ourselves. This continual experience gives birth to a forgiveness that is supernatural. It makes it possible for me to remain in a conscious state of forgiveness of myself and others for only one reason: Jesus! I need no explanation, no extended Bible study, just the presence and acceptance of my Heavenly Father’s daily invitation to Astonish Him.
I can safely assume that like me, you’re so used to the admonishment to “experience God” that you might not even be aware of the desire that God wants to so intimately to “experience you.” In fact, to varying degrees, we all struggle with guilt in believing that we haven’t done enough to “earn” God’s love. It is this false guilt rooted in pride and self-righteousness that we get busy and begin to select our pill of performance. Be it church work, the legalistic demands that are imposed on us through cultural ideologies—which are nothing more than rules established by mortals in every sector of our society to control, to manipulate, to hold as prisoner by their own mantras of what is the truth. This is especially apparent in pop theology that does just that, “pop” us from one idea about God to another, while we never really find rest in just “being” with God one on one—personal, intimate, and real.
Let me say it a different way because guilt-fueled performance has become so imbedded in our psyche that we miss the point. Here it goes. Most of today’s Christianity is based on guilt, fear, and performance. We attend church, pay our tithes, go on mission trips, and even read our Bibles in hopes that God will love us and be pleased by what we do. We are so desperate for affirmation from people to push the “confirmation button” so as to validate that we are doing good. We have made preachers and ministers our spiritual rock stars because we seek from them a shake of the hand, pat on the head, or rub on the back, and we’re good for another three to seven days.
What has happened to the adventurous spirit that forged the great continent of Africa? Where are the risk-takers, the “mission impossible” spiritual heroes of today that take on the call of discovering our own personal journeys to unknown places that exist all around us? Let’s be clear, nothing has happened to take these opportunities away. There are not enough people around us living life on the edge of faith and astonishing God. We have become complacent and comatose from the same same that is driving us insane. God is hovering over the Earth, looking for another soul who would dare to Astonish Him before time is no more. Heaven will have a special realm in which only such people can go in and out. I truly believe that. Perhaps it’s you! Or maybe you are adventuring, but you seem to be left unfulfilled and you keep looking for more—and yet you can’t really say what that “more” looks like. Yet you know it’s there.
When you begin to mature in God, you’ll learn really quickly that He doesn’t treat you like you a babe anymore. You’re going to have to not merely talk about faith but live it, and live it boldly!
Why have we, as a nation, allowed ourselves to become arrested from the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy unlike any other nation in the world? We have become arrested in the scenes that most of us merely exist in America, but we do not live in the freedoms that we have been born with and allowed to express in this country.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
We plan to retire the moment we get a job, by amassing enough money to pay the mortgage, car note, and earn that two weeks per year of vacation. All the while, we’re sacrificing experiencing the abundant life Jesus offers right now, and instead settle for the narrative of the American Dream that for many has become a nightmare. A new crop of politicians are fighting hard to change America into a socialist country in which people don’t dream but lean upon government for everything.
At fifty-three, after riding over 1,014 miles on my bike for two and a half months, I came to experience God in a daring way by allowing Him to experience me. I let Him in. Into my issues, my fears, my disappointments, my regrets, resentments, hopes, desires, and unanswered questions—while accepting that they may never be answered. I slept in my tent, battled climbing massive hills, endured unexpected wounds and cold as low as 19 degrees. I refused to listen to other voices in my head or even music while I rode my bike. I wanted to hear God hear me. During this time, silence was epic and each push of the pedal was bringing me closer to that knowing that no one could know but me.
My hope is that you would be inspired to embrace the idea of allowing God to be Astonished by you! That you would stop being down on you and never ever again allow anyone else to do so. I want to testify to you that God’s love for you is way more than you can imagine in one million lifetimes, and right this moment, He is standing at the doorway of your heart, inviting you to Astonish Him through your journey of faith!
My advice: Let Him. It will be the beginning of you experiencing Him unlike ever before.
From the time God spoke to my heart to shift, to the day I climbed on my bike was about forty-five days. Here’s my experience of 1,014 miles to date, and I’ll continue my journey for thousands of more miles to come. I’m not done Astonishing God and He’s certainly not done Astonishing me!
This short video, about three minutes, gives you a complete view of my bike and what I took with me:
Meet a few people who shared their hearts with me in this twenty-minute video. I pray it inspires you to find your story and share it as well.
Americans on America – https://vimeo.com/249039235
William Owens Jr.
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