Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A flippin' victim

I have really struggled, since becoming a Christian, with a number of tenets of Christianity. The toughest ones to follow, it seems, are the building blocks of the whole saving grace. Of course they are. If it were simple, I wouldn't need grace, right?

The one that stumps me daily is the need to love others. This is how the world will know the followers of Jesus—by the way we love one another. Yikes.

I was not feeling love yesterday. I was feeling many other emotions. Not love.

It was my turn to take my son to his little Lego class ( I had just dropped him off, and I prepared to pull out of the parking lot, making a left turn so I could then turn left again to reach the gas station for a refill. It was a messy, rainy night, the shiny road surfaces reflecting bright headlights like mad. People were going too fast, as people who drive big killing machines on sleet-y nights are wont to do. I made sure I had lots of time and space, pulled out of the lot, and then drove a short way and into the turning lane in the middle of the highway. I used my left turn signal. Maybe I went too slowly? Maybe the poor visibility made me a tad more cautious and timid than usual? Or maybe I did nothing wrong. Maybe I was just in the path of someone's misdirected rage.

I had come to a stop in the turning lane, blink blink blink went my turn signal, and a large pickup truck pulled in front of me on a slight angle. It halted. The window rolled down with a fervor, and I looked with shock as a clean-cut young man threw his left arm out in my direction and flipped me a very angry, deliberate middle finger.

He glared at me as he saluted me, looking right into my eyes to ensure that I knew this bird was for me and me alone. It took a second or two for it to register in my mind that he was, indeed, flipping me off. Me. Why? I did not know. How to respond? I gathered my wits, smirked at him, and waved a friendly hand. He pulled his arm back in, rolled up the window, and sped back into the moving traffic lane.

How to respond to that? I sat, shaking slightly with bewilderment, perplexed as to what I had done to merit his supercilious assault. Then I got a break in the oncoming lanes, and I pulled into the gas station and filled the tank. Still confused. Still wondering what crime I had committed.

I ran to the grocery store for a few items, still replaying the scene in my mind. Still uncertain what wrong I had done.

I parked and went to get a cup of coffee to waste the remaining half hour before Lego class wrapped up. It began to dawn on me that it might be a good thing that I don't carry a loaded weapon. I began to realize, too, that no matter what I had done, it would not have merited such a mean-spirited, personal attack. I could only hope that the enraged kid had gotten the ire out of his system when he sent his clear message to me, and that his evil would end there.

I know, it's just a finger. Worse things happen to people every day. I guess it was just the senselessness of the act, the sheer meanness of it, and his utter lack of consideration for anything that might be going on in my world. And I pondered, for the millionth time, how God can love us, and how in God's name I can ever rise to the occasion of loving my fellow men and women.

We are, so help me God, an unlovable, awful, wretched, ignorant, smug, self-righteous bunch of jerks.


Facie said...

As I was sitting in mass this morning listening to the priest talk about the sad state of the world, I thought about the people who say this is because we are Godless society, and then I thought about the people who say lack of religion/belief in God has nothing to do with that. I decided that the former group is "more correct." If people truly believe in God and an afterlife, how could they treat others so horribly, be dishonest, commit violent acts, etc.? Forever/eternity is a long time compared with a few to a decade worth of decades on earth.

Some people do not make it easy to love or even tolerate. I used to tell Jordan she needs to be nice to everyone, regardless. Now I tell her if someone is mean to her, particularly when it is ongoing as it has been with a few classmates, she should ignore them or tell them what they are doing is wrong or hurtful. Although I told her I do not want her to be mean back (hubby would disagree), I said she should not feel obligated to be nice to them. Maybe someone like Gandhi can do that, but for the rest of us, it is not so easy!

Did you consider coming up with positive things daily? That has really helped me, even though I often forget to do it for a few days. If you look hard enough, you will be able to find positive/good things, which can hopefully outweigh or at least lessen the blow of the bad one.

Hang in there!

Mel said...

hey Facie--yes, the positive/thankful/recognition of blessings is helpful. and those things emerge when you look, more than you expected to find. I am with you in that God's absence from our culture is a terrible thing, and is beginning to bring judgment. I have steered clear of posts that express all my true feelings about that subject b/c frankly, I am not ready to open up about my beliefs in that area. I need to do some more praying and seeking before I "go there." but in my mind, I am there more and more.

chris h. said...

Your story took me back to an incident YEARS ago that I still remember. On a morning drive to work, I was stopped at a red light before turning right on red. As I started to make my turn, I heard a honk and then the screech of a woman screaming at me, apparently for turning in front of her. Seems she was driving up a lane of parking spaces (not a traffic lane) to make the same right turn I was making, and was incensed that I almost pulled in front of her. Yes, I got the finger, the glares, the tell-off -- and I was in the driving lane and she was not.

Obviously, it bothered me so much that 20 years later, I still remember it. It's a long time to carry something so trivial. I'm sure she doesn't remember it at all.

Thinking about it, along with your story and Facie's response, it just dawns on me that "Forgive and forget" is not only a way to show love/compassion for others, it's also a safety net for keeping their wrongdoing, their malice, their mistakes from poisoning our own lives.

So, try to forgive and forget your jerk and I will, finally, try to do the same with mine. (Although, in my head I'm saying "You're a jerk. I forgive you. Now I forget you...because you don't deserve the space in my brain. Amen.)

Mel said...

Chris, valid point for sure. Sorry you had to suffer wrongly, even all those years ago, because we all know that the insult stings far longer than it actually lasts... but you are right. I'll work on the forgive/forget step so I can "stop the madness" before it gets ahold in my world. : )