Tuesday morning Laura called me at about 7:30 in the morning. She had just finished assisting a 27-hour birth (she’s a doula) and needed me to come get her at the hospital and drive her to her car. It was about a 15 mile drive from church to the hospital to pick her up, then to where her car was at the home of the couple who had a baby. No problem, right?
Except it was rush hour.
That 30-mile round trip took me an hour and 45 minutes. (Thank you, Lord, for my 10-minute daily commute…) Of course the freeway was packed, so I went down a major road that runs parallel to it. The light of a major intersection on that road was flashing red…which took me 15 minutes to get through all by itself. Then I got cut off (in my 6400 pound behemoth, no less!) about, oh, 154 times. To add insult to injury I mistakenly got on a street that I couldn’t turn off of. And of course I caught every red light imaginable in both directions.
There was a time that I really enjoyed driving. When I got behind the wheel of my 1975 Pontiac Firebird (mine had a much cooler paint job) as a teenager, the world was at my fingertips. I would drive anywhere my mom wanted me to. Fast food? I’ll run! Gallon of milk? I’m your man! Don’t call your friends…drive over and see them!
Now, though, driving is hard on my discipleship. It’s really, really hard for me to see why people act so thoughtlessly and arrogantly when they are driving. Honestly, if I were in line and someone asked to squeeze through to get past the line I was in, I wouldn’t think twice about letting them through. Of course I want to be kind and polite! Put the two of us in our cars, though, and we are both apt to act like we’re four-year-olds playing a dangerous game of chicken. You know that you’ve had that time when someone wanted to merge that you pretended that they didn’t exist so that you didn’t have to let them in! (“I can’t see you, so you don’t exist!”)
I really thought about this problem in my life this week. I think that most of the challenge of traffic is that we stop seeing one another as people when we get behind the wheel. We get so focused on getting to our destination and our loved ones and our tasks that we fail to realize that the other people on the road are doing the exact same thing that we are. We tend to think of them as obstacles to our goal rather than as people created in the image of God.
Don’t believe me? Ask yourself next time you get angry at someone for jumping into your lane ahead of you if you would be angry at them if they were your friend. When you know the person who is driving next to you, all the frustration vanishes, doesn’t it? You’ll slow down and wave them in, let them turn into your lane, and not get upset at them if they are not speeding as much as you want to. Even if they do something ridiculous on the road, you’ll laugh it off with them.
What’s the difference? You know them. They are not just a car; they are a friend in a car. You have a relationship with them, and that relationship will continue after the driving is over. Rather than being an obstacle, they are a person endowed with the image of God from Genesis 1:26-27.
What if, though, we started treating people behind the wheel like friends, regardless of whether we know them or not? What if we really allowed Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:36-40 to sink into our bones and affect the way we treated others?
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
37 And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’
38 “This is the great and foremost commandment.
39 “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’
40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
In Luke 10, in response to this understanding of God’s priorities, a lawyer asks Jesus who his neighbor is. Jesus responds in Luke 10:30-37 with the parable of the Good Samaritan, which teaches us that our neighbors are those all around us, whether we know and appreciate them or not! And yes, that includes the lady this afternoon who decided that the guy in the pickup who was pulling a trailer should have to make way for her to get ahead and jam on her brakes to make a right turn. (grumble, grumble, grumble…)
I think that seeing people as people, rather than as obstacles, is a huge tool to turn my driving back into the enjoyable experience it was in my teens. It will mean that I need to leave a few minutes earlier so that I have time to be polite, but I think that the increase in peace in my soul will be worth it.
This applies beyond driving, too. People can be so mean-spirited on the internet when commenting on blogs (not ABF, thankfully!) or on news sites. I have seen people say horrible stuff online, because they are anonymous and not accountable for their words. On Facebook, though, your name and picture are next to your words, so people are a lot more careful. We think about our friends and how our words will affect them because we think of them as people not as objects.
So I challenge you to walk with me on this path to humanizing your commute. Make it a point to see the people in your interactions as people and not as obstacles in your path. View them as bearers of the image of God and see what happens to your stress levels, your frustration at others and your walk with Christ.