Last week an interesting thing happened — more-correctly, a lesson in self-reflection occurred. Let’s rewind, however.
Back in the Spring, I realized that one of my greatest weaknesses is impatience. Whether it’s service at a restaurant or my poor husband, I am as impatient as they come. I’d love to blame it on our culture or my “instant gratification” millennial generation, but I can’t. I’m just not a very patient person. I’m not patient with God or God’s answers. I don’t drag my feet when I set my mind to something. I’m unforgiving of what I don’t know — for example, that waitress that’s taking forever might be having a really, really off day (and Lord knows, I have those and hope others understand). I’m so very impatient.
So, back in the Spring, I decided to put this at the forefront of my growth. I would work to catch myself in impatient moments, take a collective sigh, and simply move on. It’s working and has worked very well. In fact, I’m catching myself much sooner and to top it off, I’m simply considering what might be the reason for whatever is making me impatient — namely, others before myself.
But last Tuesday, all of this beautiful, reflective, positive growth flew out the window.
I was leaving Walmart (affectionately referred to in my circle as ‘Walfart’), so you know I was already feeling some angst. As I approached the exit to the parking lot I noticed a problem. Facing the main road (the one on which I needed to turn right), directly to the right is a stop light. So, if cars get backed up (stopped) at the stop light, then folks leaving the parking lot cannot turn out and consequently have to wait OR wait on a kind soul to let them out. Of course, to my dismay, there was an 18-wheeler at the stop light in the far right lane (right in front of me). However, there was just enough room for me to squeeze out behind him and get in the lane if I were quick enough. I looked left and saw a car coming so I knew I didn’t have enough time. I thought briefly that this car was going to exude “kind soul” and leave enough space for me to get out. I’m not sure why I thought that….
The car was a beat up old late 90’s model something-or-other with a young man about my age in it about whom, by his appearance, if I wanted to, I could make a lot of assumptions. But, my lessons in both patience and not judging a book by it’s cover, prevailed and I did not reflect. I simply waited as patiently as I could for the light to turn, hoping that other cars would not add to the wait and, after about a minute, I was able to pull out.
Now, it’s one thing when I’m alone in the car and it’s a weekend. But this day I had Cooper in the back seat watching Elmo and I needed to get home and to the office to work. There were, of course, external factors that certainly could’ve added to or accompanied all that happened next.
I took off down the road headed back to Ridgely from Dyersburg. I drove by the young man in the beat up old car as I was making my way (he’d gotten stuck in the left lane behind a sweet-looking little-old-lady.) Now, just 2 minutes down the road from Walmart, in front of the Dyersburg Cracker Barrel, the 2 lanes merge to 1. I’m be-bopping along just fine when I look in my rearview to see the young man in the beat up old car speeding up to try to get around me before the lanes reduce and I mean he’s way behind me. He cuts around me very quickly and cuts me off in a pretty dangerous way before taking off down the road.
Well I tell you I don’t know if it was general road rage or momma bear coming out but I laid on my horn so fast. He’d scared me! He’d pushed me over the line! My sweet baby was in the car! I needed to get home as much as he did, I’m sure, to work and to work at a church for that matter and a church that surely is full of people that would never, ever drive like “that guy!” Please read my sarcasm there. Now, he was “that guy.” Well, now I’m failing.
I began to think all sorts of bad things about the young man in the beat up old car. After a few minutes I gathered myself, sighed, and moved along. It was over. We were safe. All was well.
A little ways down the road I could see several cars ahead of me. I saw the young man in the beat up old car had found himself stuck behind someone going (gulp*) the speed limit and I kind of smiled. “Good,” I thought. “He’ll take it easy now.”
About 7 minutes from home, we (the long line of be-boppers) approached a curve right before you get to Bagota. By now I’d forgotten about the young man in the beat up old car. I just needed to get home and get on with the day. As I watched the road ahead, and as we were all rounding the curve, I watched the young man in the beat up old car pass the slower car in front of him…….ON. A. CURVE. Seriously, folks. Don’t do this. Seriously, seriously. It’s illegal. It’s not illegal because someone wanted to write another rule of the road that we all have to succumb to. It’s illegal because it’s dangerous. I watched as the man came very close to coming into contact with a driver in the left lane and thanked God that he didn’t. Then….
Then I watched as the car behind the person in the left lane breaked just past me and made a U-turn. To be more specific, I watched as the State Trooper following the car in the left lane breaked and made a U-turn. I grinned like the Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas grinned from ear to ear. I put my blinker on and pulled over so that the State Trooper could pass me as he put his lights on to track down the young man in the beat up old car. I laughed to myself, thought snide things, and grinned as largely as I could when I past the young man in the beat up old car pulled over by West Tennessee’s finest. VICTORY! I thought. KARMA! I shouted. Giggles and laughter and 30-second-dance-parties behind the wheel as I traveled home.
I even called Craig as I be-bopped along and told him all that had just happened. Yes, I was that excited that the young man in the beat up old car received is come-uppins. My celebration and joy must’ve lasted for several minutes.
Then as I approached Ridgely I began to feel it. I began to feel that shame seeping into the crevices of my heart. I began to feel the guilt that, not 5 minutes earlier, I did NOT think I was going to feel about my little celebration. I was a mother who wanted my child to be safe. I had every reason to celebrate this guy’s ticket. I was a pastor who faithfully teaches the importance of observing the laws of the land. He had it coming to him. HE should be feeling guilty. However, here I was drowning in it.
You see, the truth is, I am far from perfect. Today I’m not even talking about those mistakes I have made — mistakes are often equated with accidents beyond our control. I frequently make decisions I might not should make. I have knowingly done hurtful things in my past. I am scarred and bruised with skeletons far worse than traffic violations in my closet. I am a big pile of crap, sometimes. And no matter the mistake or the known violation, I am constantly hoping and praying for, not only the grace of God to redeem my poor, sad, soul, but for the people of this world to show me kindness in my fault.
By the time I got home I felt terrible. It’s funny all you can go through in 15 minutes. My soul hurt for my response. I began to think of this world and how often we choose to snidely grin from ear to ear when folks “get what’s coming to them.” I began to wonder how I could teach Cooper to be radically different than even me. After all, a pastor’s hope is that their flock would love even greater than them and a mother’s hope is always for something better in this world for their children.
Be-bopping along, today. Blessings.