Every driver knows the feeling of making a small mistake on the road, because we’ve all been there; either you’ve cut someone off accidentally, or had someone take your right of way. Most of the time you wave and the incident passes. Occasionally you get a honk, maybe a gesture telling you, you’re number one, but rarely does it turn into much else. A few days ago I had a first.
I was pulling out of a gas station near my house and noticed a significantly larger-than-usual flow of traffic. As I started to turn right, I realized the street was closed that direction and that traffic was being diverted back towards me -- thus the large traffic mess. I had pulled out part way when I became aware of the situation, so I stopped, flipped my blinker form a right turn to a left turn, and waited as a kind bus driver was giving me an opening to slip into when her light turned green.
As I waited, a pedestrian was now coming my way on the sidewalk. Problem was, my maneuver that started as a right turn and became a left turn, had ended with my van partially blocking the sidewalk. When I realized my error, I wasn’t able to back up because the car behind me was right on my tail.
Seeing the pedestrian coming I waved, mouthed the words, “Sorry” to him, but felt fine knowing it would be ok. He could still walk on the sidewalk (it was only partially blocked) and wouldn’t have to enter the street to get around. I was mistaken thinking that it would be ok.
As he passed me, he uttered multiple profanities. He gestured wildly and almost seemed to be inviting me out of my car to beat the living day lights out of me (I guess he couldn’t have known that I studied the Karate Kid religiously as a young teenager). Then he spat on my windshield. When, moments later, I made my left turn onto the street, and passed the corner he was standing on, he flipped me off, still uttering profanities, and still angry about the fact I took up half his sidewalk.
That moment really started my morning poorly. As I drove home I reflected on the man’s behavior. I actually had a thought of the movie Elf where the taxi cab hits Elf . Elf jumped up and was fine after the incident; maybe I should have nudged this guy too…
When I got home, I picked up my devotional book for the morning and the lesson was about controlling our thoughts ahead of time. In other words, you can’t anticipate that an angry pedestrian will insult your mother, your IQ and your driving skills while spitting on your windshield, but you can already know how you’ll respond if he does.
Apparently day-dreaming of running a pedestrian over isn’t the type of controlled response God is looking for from His children.
While reading my Bible and working through my book, I started wondering what this man’s life was about. Why was he so angry? Was he married, and if so, how does his wife handle this kind of out burst? Does he have kids? What’s going on in their souls day in and day out? It must be horrible to live with someone who is so angry.
I’ve been around long enough to know you don’t just wake up angry one day…little by little you are put down, beaten back, embarrassed, harassed, abused or taken advantage of enough times that you start giving vent to your wrath. At first it scares you, but then it’s almost a relief and at times even an empowerment. You know it hurts others, but ultimately you feel like it’s your only defense against life’s hurts. I bet this man's life is one of extreme pain.
When I thought about my walking friend in that light, I didn’t care so much about my windshield or my ego. I wished I had walked up to the corner and offered him a ride; it was a cold and wet morning. Of course, I might have gotten the living daylights beaten out of me (only if he knew how to defend against the Crane Kick!), but somehow I think that would have been a better response than wondering how realistic the movie Elf was.
I want to be filled with compassion for people so that my first response isn’t self-defense, my sense of justice or revenge. Living Overboard means I can’t resort to what’s easy or “natural”, my response has to be supernatural -- borne of God’s work in my life. I can’t predict how others will respond to me, but by being filled with God, His Word and His Spirit, I can predict what my response will be.
How about you? Are you prepared to be flipped off, spat on and verbally abused? Probably not. But if you are walking close with God, keeping His Word ever-present in your life, you are more ready than you think.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!
I Peter 2:23 illustrates how Jesus handled a similar, yet obviously more severe, situation. You’ll notice He didn’t all down a divine cadillac to run over His offenders:
“When they hurled their insults at Him [Jesus], He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him [the Father] who judges justly.”
Jesus set the bar high. We do not have permission to take revenge or justice into our own hands, but He will judge correctly. And He won’t just judge the offender’s actions, He will also judge how you and I respond in those situation. That’s reflects His teachings during the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5-7:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person If someone strikes you on the rich cheek, turn to him the other also” (5:38-39).
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (5:43-44).
There’s no way around it, God expects godly responds from God’s children. I blew it a few days ago, but I want to be ready the next time opportunity rolls around. Fill your mind with God’s truth, and you’ll be ready, too.