My trio & I had a wonderful 24 hour getaway to see my parents last night. As we basked in gorgeous early Spring weather, there were riverfront hikes, rock skipping lessons from my Dad, backyard whiffle ball games and lots of laughter. This brief change of scenery was right on time! The last two weeks of illness and dismal weather had taken its toll. My somewhat lackluster heart for the world and its people was feeling refreshed as we loaded the car this afternoon for our 3 hour return trip home.
While the children watched a video, I enjoyed some quiet highway driving time. A thought-provoking quote from Paul Tripp was turning over in my heart and mind: "We're not people mechanics, we're ambassadors of Christ." I thought about the implications of this mentality in my life. I struggle with a desire to always want life to teach a lesson. I asked God to give me less 'fix it' and more grace and love for others. Then a little red Kia put me to the test.
For 2-3 miles this little car bothered me with its erratic antics. The female driver bobbed and weaved. She ran off the road and over corrected repeatedly. Even her speed was unpredictable--slowing down, speeding up, running up on the bumper of the car in front of her before slamming on her brakes. At one point I was in the lane directly to her left and saw that she was completely preoccupied by her phone. The equalizer in me took over. I honked my horn to get her attention and shot her a corrective Mama look. She barely glanced my way--unfazed.
I kept my distance and watched for another 3/4 mile or so as she continued to drive in a reckless manner. I went from concerned to angry, then called 911 and reported her. As I hung up the phone, I felt mildly vindicated.
My heart raced as I waited to see what would happen next. I was fearful she might cause an accident--but if I am honest, I also wanted to see her get caught. As we topped each hill on the divided highway I scanned the distance to see if she would be pulled over by a blue light. I realized that my desire for justice had all but crowded out my more defensible concern for highway safety.
I started out legitimately concerned. I even reached out to get her attention and try to restore her to law abiding driver. But when she rebuffed my help, the gloves came off.
It was a revealing (and ugly) glimpse into the heart of man--or at the very least this woman. I chuckled to myself...how quickly Ms. Grace flipped to Dr. Pharisee. This is how it happens, it seems. Time and again, grace-filled intentions shift to justice-seeking witch hunts. It is how Christians, especially, get a bad rap.
I thought about this erratic young driver. I used to be her. Seriously. I cringe when I recall my early driving years. At 18 I got a ticket for driving 101mph in a 55mph zone. (I know. Awful.) And while we didn't have texting to distract us in the early 90s, I would sometimes read while driving. (I KNOW!!)
Because I can put myself in her shoes, it is tempting to just shake my head and think...who am I to judge? I did it. It's that youthful sense of invincibility--an unfortunate right of passage, if you will. But the truth is, I have a right to judge. With age and life experience, my perspective has shifted. I now know better. I am painfully aware of the horrible damage her irresponsibility could inflict on someone else. She was breaking the law and putting others at risk. It is not just HER problem.
I think about the countless ways this struggle plays itself out over and over again in my life. What begins as an honest concern gets shifted to an adversarial situation. It is so easy for our legitimate desire for change to get clouded by a justice seeking mentality. It always seems to be rooted in fear for me--fear that if something doesn't change, someone is going to get hurt.
I recently heard a parenting lecture that urged listeners to side WITH your children AGAINST the sin that threatens to ensnare them. It seemed like advice that should be transferred to all of my relationships.
How quickly we forget that in this world our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the sin that seeks to kill and destroy. Oh that we might have grace to side with the sinner, against the sin.
But what do we do when the sinner cannot yet see their behavior as reckless and dangerous? What if they blow us off? What then? What is our responsibility on our interactions with others--especially when we feel justified in our anger? Or when our egos have been bruised? We must prayerfully surrender.
Because of her speed, I lost track of the little red Kia this afternoon. We were close to home. I feel fairly sure she did not get caught. I am grateful no one seemed to be hurt by her--and frankly, a little miffed that she got away with her irresponsibility without consequence. (Ugh. Ugly but true.)
Based on her bumper stickers, I realized she probably lives in my town. I mused briefly over what I would do if I ran into her in town again. Would I seize the opportunity to insert myself as a 'mechanic' in her life or to be an 'ambassador of Christ?' Suddenly, I didn't like that quote as much.
Three hours later, leaving our favorite Mexican restaurant, I saw the red Kia in the parking lot. I considered leaving her a note--lecturing her like the somewhat batty lady I am apparently becoming. I opted to let it go.
While our encounter didn't lead to a physical crash, she certainly impacted me with much food for thought and prayer.