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.