Fight the System

I was trying to figure out the other day why my journey of being a follower of Jesus seems to be at its worst when there is a steering wheel about a foot and a half in front of me.

9 of out 10 times, if I’m getting really mad and acting in ways that I really don’t want to have to admit, it’s happening in the car while I’m driving.

I’m no where near a perfect person, but generally I’m not a horrible monster. So why, when I drive, would I become so upset at other people?

I think I have figured out why this is the case:

I love systems. 

If I’m not careful, I love systems more than I love people.

Systems are reliable, dependable, predictable.

People are none of those things.

And nowhere are systems more integrated to my activity than when I am driving. 

Some systems are known by everybody, and are actually laws: stop at red lights, use headlights at night, big trucks can’t use the left lane on a freeway (this is true in much of the mid-atlantic, not so in the south).

Other systems are not exactly official rules, but more like unspoken agreements: the left lane is the fast lane, don’t ride somebodies bumper.

Some systems are totally subjective: should you merge right when you see the sign, or down where the construction actually starts? 

I have found that I have decided how everyone “should” behave in pretty much every situation on the road, and when somebody does not follow my system (drives slow in the left lane, merges early, tries to get past me in a dangerous manner), I turn into a grade 1 jerk.

I’m going to pass the person going slow in the left lane and give them a ‘c’mon man’ look as I do so.

I’m going to shout about how inefficient early merging or not zippering during a merge is to the driver (who can’t hear me, but my family can).

I’m going to become a brick wall to the person trying to pass me in a dangerous manner. I’ll match speed with the car in front of them to box them in. My wife really hates this one. She’s not wrong.

Because I’m not too smart, it took me until recently to realize that I was loving systems instead of people.

There’s a great arrogance in believing my system is superior to what anyone else decides and thinking less of them when they do something - anything - differently than what I think should happen.

When we serve systems rather than people, the more blatantly somebody violate the rules of our system, the angrier they make me.

Jesus refused to serve religious systems. Instead, he was a servant of the kingdom of God.

This was why the Pharisees hated his guts. They had decided that their system was right and best, so when Jesus didn’t follow that system, it drove them into (literally) a murderous rage.

As I was realizing why I was behaving so poorly as I drove, I remembered Luke 6:38: “The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

I was giving zero grace on the roadways. And when it comes time for me to need God’s grace in my life, he’s going to be limited in the amount he can give me based on my selfish and stupid behaviour.

Now that I know what was happening, I’m fighting it. I’m looking for opportunities to give grace, even if it’s just in how I think about somebody in another vehicle.

Jesus loved people more than systems and he gave generous amounts of grace and mercy. 

I’m trying to be more like Jesus, so I’m trying to do the same thing when everything within me wants to do the opposite.

One of the great values of communication is this: when we don’t know the real story, we start to make up our own.
From 35@35 #20 by thomaschristianson
Arguing never creates unity; but dialogue can.
From 35@35 #20 by thomaschristianson
Eating healthier always seems like a good idea until the moment I have to put carrots into my shopping cart instead of potato chips.
If following Jesus meant that I could avoid the consequences for my dumb, selfish actions, I bet everybody would follow Jesus.
It doesn’t.
I’m going to help you stop losing those arguments. You ready? Here you go: stop having them.
Anybody can say that they hold another viewpoint, but without the ability to intellectually defend a position using respectable grounds (logic, philosophy, theology, science, etc), you’re demonstrating ignorance. On the internet, we call this ‘trolling’.

Stuff gets broken: cell phone screens, cars, furniture, etc.

But people don’t get broken. They get wounded.

So we don’t need a fixer. We need a healer.

That’s one of the aspects of God - He is a healer.

35@35 #12: Being Wounded

TC’s Principles and Guidelines for Life #12: “Imperfect situations do not have perfect solutions.”

Sometimes, I wish I had magic prayer words. Or fairy dust. Or silver bullets.

I run into people on a fairly regular basis who find themselves in tough circumstances.

They have a loved one who is struggling with addiction; or their finances are a mess due to un/under employment; or they are struggling with serious illness.

And in those moments, I want to fix what’s wrong.

I hate looking them in the eye and knowing that when our conversation ends and they walk away, that problem is still going to exist.

I offer genuine words of encouragement, I pray with them, I give advice if it’s asked for, and I truly empathize. 

But I can’t fix it.

They are in pain, and I can’t make them better.

Instead, I point to the one who is healer.

See stuff gets broken: cell phone screens, cars, furniture, etc.

But people don’t get broken. They get wounded.

So we don’t need a fixer. We need a healer.

That’s one of the aspects of God - He is a healer.

Wounds will normally heal on their own. But if it’s a big injury, it needs help to heal. A bone may need to be set. Stitches may be needed. Infection may need to be cut out.

Broken things stay broken if they aren’t fixed. Wounded things may not heal properly if not treated.

So I spend most of my time in these conversations pointing to the healer. Offering scriptures and prayer that remind us to trust in God.

But it’s the same thing as telling somebody to go to the doctor: I can’t force them to go. They may decide not to.

And if they do go, there’s no guarantee they will follow the prescription.

If a doctor tells you to take medicine, if you fail to go to the pharmacy, or fail to take the pills as instructed, you’re not going to get the benefit.

Healing takes time. We have to follow the instructions of the healer in order to see the process occur, and we have to be patient.

Engage with the cure and give it time to work.

This is the formula for healing.

And if the first approach doesn’t complete the process (not that God is wrong, but sometimes there may be more than one issue), we must be willing to return and submit to further instructions.

And cure is often painful. Have you ever read the side effects of medicine? It’s nuts! For a temporary period of time, you’re going to hurt yourself in order to get healthy.

This is why I say imperfect situations do not have perfect solutions. Because healing will involve pain. 

Setting a broken bone is not fun, but it’s incredibly important. 

It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s the best one we’ve got.

Trusting ourselves to the care of a capable healer is essential to life.


35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

35@35 #11: Tactical

TC’s Guidelines and Principles for life #11: “When searching for a product, to see the best version of that product, search for the word ‘tactical’.”

Look, normally my posts have some kind of spiritual and emotional value associated with them. 

This one? Not so much.

Here’s how I started to learn about this life hack: when I needed good gloves for an adventure race I was about to join, I had a ton of trouble finding ones that could handle adverse conditions. 

Until I added one little word in front of my searches: ‘tactical’.

And that’s how I found the blackhawk gloves that are marketed to special forces troops.

Need a good flashlight? Get a tactical flashlight?

Backpack? Boots? Raincoat?

Getting something designed for military use is a great way to get a product that can handle a lot of rough and tumble use.

I still have those gloves years later. I still have my Maxpedition sling backpack as well.

Any anytime I need a product that can stand up to harsh use, I only need to remember one simple little word.



35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.