One day a long time ago in a galaxy far far away–sorry, wrong story. Any way, way back in our family past, we lived on a rural road when a cable TV company was putting up wire for cable, something our kids were excited about until we told them we weren’t getting cable. That too, is probably another story.
The line crew neared our house and went past–I had some distraction from sermon preparation watching the process. I also noted one man whose job seemed to be to drive up and down the road inspecting the newly installed cable, presumably to ensure that everything was done properly and no hangers had come lose.
This particular day, he was driving down the road, looking up towards the cable. I am pretty sure that his view of the roadway itself was quite limited. What he was seeing was out of the corner of his eye and didn’t have much of his attention. For some reason he turned into our driveway which, like many rural driveways, had a culvert over fairly deep ditches on both sides. Carefully watching the cable, the driver turned into the driveway, didn’t see how wide the driveway was, didn’t see the ditch on the side, didn’t do anything to avoid the inevitable. He dropped a front wheel right off the end of the culvert, grounding his pickup truck and coming to a very abrupt halt.
What came next was classic–no TV script writer could have got it better. He wasn’t hurt, just a bit confused. He opened the truck door, got out, walked around the front of the truck, looked at the front end hanging over the ditch. Then, he looked up to the sky, raised his fist and shouted, “Why me?”. He said a few other things, all of which indicated that he was personally and deeply upset that somehow God had either not prevented this mess or that God had specifically commanded the truck to drop off the driveway.
I didn’t know the guy and was only concerned with how long my driveway would be blocked but from my perspective, I could have given him a very clear and specific answer. This accident occurred because he was driving distracted. He wasn’t really watching the road, most of his attention and focus were on the cable and so he simply didn’t see the width of the driveway. What happened wasn’t really an accident–it was the direct result of driving while distracted.
God really didn’t enter into the picture. Well, he did because God is always present, always active and always working to bring about his ultimate will. But in this case, God didn’t plan this event; he didn’t miraculously extend the driveway or put an energy absorbing wall in front of the truck to stop in safely–God’s involvement was to let the driver of the pickup truck reap the inevitable consequences of his very unsafe behaviour.
But like most people, the driver wasn’t willing to deal with his responsibility. Because he had some connection with faith, God provided a convenient scapegoat. Somehow, what happened had to be a great divine event, part of the cosmic struggle between good and evil. It was easier for the driver to see himself as a pawn in this cosmic struggle rather than admit that he was doing something stupid and dangerous.
As I mentioned, I didn’t get into that discussion with the man. And in truth, very few people I know actually want to have that discussion. Most people, including me, would rather have something beyond ourselves to blame of the pain and trouble of life. We are quite happy accepting the responsibility when we do something right, observing the social conventions about being appropriately modest of course. But we don’t really like admitting that some things that happen to us are our own fault, the result of actions or inactions on our part.
There are certainly many times when we can’t make such a direct connection, times when what we are experiencing really isn’t connected with us and our action or inaction. Those times do create problems and difficulties. But there are a good many times when we would be much better off facing the reality that what we are experiencing is our own fault rather than seeking to blame God or someone else. “Why me?” is an important question but we trivialize both the question and our faith when we use it to avoid taking our own responsibility.
May the peace of God be with you.