This is a too common and too true story about me. I am driving on a highway going somewhere. I have plenty of time to get where I am going–if I am driving, there will be lots of time because I always build into the trip time to stop for coffee, take a bathroom break, change a flat or write a book. But as I am driving along at my desired speed (which won’t be mentioned to avoid self-incrimination), I pull up behind someone going slower that I want to go.
To make matters worse, it is impossible to pass the person immediately. There is too much on-coming traffic or no passing lane or the road conditions are poor. Whatever the reason, I am stuck behind the slower driver, forced to slow down and drive as what I consider a less than optimal speed. Now, remember, I am not going to be late–I have built in enough time for the trip so that I could probably walk and still make it on time.
My response to the situation is to get very frustrated. The longer I am behind the slow driver, the more frustrated I get. When I run the route in my mind, I get even more frustrated when I realize that the next best passing spot is at least 3 minutes away–an eternity at this point. Then, almost inevitably, I begin to question the sanity of the other driver, wondering why they are even allowed to be on the road, questioning what right they have to be there. Soon, I wonder who they bribed to get a driver’s license–obviously someone so poor at driving couldn’t have actually passed a driving test. Finally, the passing zone comes and I get by, making sure to think nasty thoughts about the other driver, his/her family, the driving instructor and inspector and anyone else as well on the way by.
I am not overly Christian when I drive, something that I have been becoming more and more aware of. And when I am honest, I discover lots of other areas in my life where my Christian faith is set on the shelf while I deal with things in alternative ways. I get very angry with pastors who abuse churches; I get incredibly judgemental and vengeful towards people who abuse children; when I see intolerance, I become incredibly intolerant; hearing someone insult and denigrate another group of people caused me to become very insulting and denigrating towards them.
I could take some of the sting out of these revelations by suggesting that I am no different than anyone else but as tempting as that it, and as common as it is, being in the same bad category as a lot of other people doesn’t really deal with the fact that there are large areas of my life that have only a distant acquaintance with my Christian faith. Knowing that nobody is perfect and that I am in good company doesn’t alter the fact that I am a sinner–nor does it make the confession any easier.
The essential struggle for me–and most other believers–is to deal with the reality that we aren’t what God meant us to be. I am pretty sure that God’s original design plans for me didn’t include me being a rude, impatient and insulting driver. I am equally convinced that somewhere in God’s blueprint for me was a specification for how I would drive as a person of faith. In fact, I actually have read some of those specifications. The design specs require Christian drivers to be kind, not rude, not self-seeking and not easily angered (I Corinthians 13).
I actually teach those design specifications to others–and get paid for it. Granted, as a part-time pastor for small, struggling rural congregations, I am not getting paid big bucks, but I am getting paid to tell other people how to drive as a Christian. Some of the people paying me actually listen to me and maybe some of them are actually becoming more Christian in their driving.
I need to listen to my own sermons–I need to practise what I preach. I know that and have known that forever but every now and then, I need to remind myself that I need the lessons as well and that I need to grow in faith and learn how to integrate my faith into more and more of my life.
May the peace of God be with you.