Off-Road Rage

This is from my original email series, Distinct Impressions. I didn’t keep records back then, but this was labeled Volume 1, Number 2. So, it’s an oldey-goldey. Even though I’m doing much better on self-control, there’s still a lot for me to learn from this. Hope you enjoy!

Image Credit: Alessandro Paiva via freeimages.com

Nancy, my wife, often finds important information in our local newspaper.  Recipes, community program schedules, and coupons all find their way into her hands and our lives.  All good things . . . all for the good of our family.

But occasionally she finds the dreaded prose of a “warning article.”  You know what I’m talking about.  Those insidious, self-help features that tell you why you’re messed up and what you should do about it.

As we’re driving to church one Sunday morning, I knew she had been recently enlightened by just such an article.  “You better watch it,” she said.  “You need to control your road rage.”

I checked my mirror.  Nope, no wreckage behind me.  “What road rage?”

“You shouldn’t be talking to other drivers — that’s a symptom of road rage.”

“But they can’t hear me,” I protested, “and I was just explaining to that lady the significance of a green light.”

“Doesn’t matter,” she insisted.  “You’re losing control.  There’s no need to talk to anybody about their driving.  You just drive, watch out for the other guy, and stay calm.”

“I am calm!!!”

I just knew she was wrong.  There was not an ounce of rage in me.  So, in a few days, when I misjudged the speed of an oncoming car and the young woman behind the wheel saluted me in a genuinely unwholesome fashion, I decided to have some fun.  “Hang on, honey!  We’re going after her!”

“What in the world are you doing?!!” Nancy asked. “I’m just going to put a scare into that sweet little thing.  I want her to think twice about HER road rage.”

I plunged the accelerator to the floor and within seconds I was right on the bumper of the little red car.  Several turns later, the car pulled into the parking lot of a duplex.  I wedged my pickup across the driveway and sat, staring menacingly.  The woman didn’t move.  I sat for several more seconds, then slowly drove away.

What a great feeling!  I put that rude driver in her place.  She was probably still shaking and wishing she’d never seen me.  Probably something like what my wife was thinking about that time.

“Well, that had to be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen you do.”

She just didn’t understand.  I had dealt justice within a mere city block.  I had asserted my right to be treated with dignity on the highway of life.

There’s something about driving, with its rules and regulations, that makes us feel good about keeping others in their place.  When someone cuts us off or just engages in a little sign language, we have a right to feel indignant.  That’s why we call it righteous indignation.

But that same attitude can invade every part of our lives.  Listen closely to people around you.  “They can’t treat me that way!”  “I’ll show them!”  “I know my rights!”

And just like road rage, there’s nothing righteous about it.

Nancy was right. I should not have reacted the way I did while behind the wheel. But, this off-road rage doesn’t get near enough attention.  The jostling for position and stature in our every day lives can be just as damaging as the punishment we deal out from behind the wheel.  We cut people off.  We accelerate — not so much to get where we are going — but to make sure others don’t get where they want to be.

“MY life matters.  Yours does not.”  That’s the message.

How foreign is that from the example of Christ?

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant . . .”  Philippians 2:5-7 (NIV).

Perhaps the prescription for road rage works off-road as well.  Look out for others.  Keep quiet.  If someone wants into your lane, let him in.  Nothing can be so important that it keeps you from your final destination.

As for me, I’m discovering my indignation is rarely righteous.  When Jesus fills my life, I have no room for self-righteous rage.

Fred’s a Close, Personal Friend

It was our second meeting with the leaders of a Dallas organization and, since the first went so well, we decided to recreate the ambience by returning to the same location.

Photo Credit: Featurepics.com

Fred’s Texas Cafe. The Original Fred’s. Fort Worth, Texas.

Garry and I decided to stick with our choice from the first lunch from over a month ago — the Fredburger. As he was ordering, Garry quipped, “You can’t go wrong with a Fredburger since it is, after all, named after Fred.”

The rest of us laughed, even as the rest of the group settled on The Diablo which is, in essence, a Fredburger lavishly dressed with ingredients guaranteed to light up your mouth — and perhaps the rest of your day.

The server didn’t laugh, but commented drily, “Yeah, well you know, Fred is a dog.”

We actually found that funny and laughed again. To which she noted, “You’d be surprised how many people come in here and try to tell us that Fred is a close, personal friend.”

And, not to be daunted in our merriment, we all laughed again.

Name-dropping. It’s a big temptation. But you have to wonder about the reasoning of people who do it in a setting where there’s a fair likelihood that their charade will be exposed. I mean, if you tell people you know Fred and you’re at his restaurant, wouldn’t it follow that word would get to Fred and he would come out to greet you — a total stranger? How embarrassing. Unless, Fred is a dog. Even at that, there would have to be some embarrassment. Of course, Fred’s serves adult beverages. So, maybe not all that much embarrassment.

We all want to be known. We all want to be recognized. We all want to be somebody. Even at the risk of stretching our credentials just a little too far.

As I finished my Fredburger and fries, I couldn’t help but think, “I’d like to meet Fred someday.”

For The Love Of . . .

I was in a hurry, but I stole a glance in the mirror.

Mud was spattered all down the sleeve of my parka. The dirt on my slacks was more troublesome. I’d have to make a decision . . . clean or change. I didn’t need this. I didn’t have time for this. Dozens of details before I could leave for work.

To my surprise, spot-cleaning did seem to take care of my pants. Although I really couldn’t be certain until they dried. The parka didn’t matter. I only wore it for special duty.

As I hustled around the house, pulling things together, I saw a shape through the blinds on the door to the back porch. Despite my frustration, I couldn’t help myself. I slowly lifted a slat and there he was. Sitting patiently upright. Poised in anticipation. Hopeful.

Togo had finished his breakfast. He had made quick work of it shortly after my first trip outside early this morning. Now he was content to wait quietly, hoping that Nancy would emerge with a treat or that either of us would challenge him to a game of tug-of-war. His knotted and muddy rope lay close by. The life of a husky-wolf mix is relatively simple and his needs are straightforward.

I knew better, but I unlatched the deadbolt and eased outside. Togo seemed to know. Instead of his usual wild-man welcome, he slipped next to me and pushed his head against my leg. From his view, we had found another one of those great moments between dog and man. As I rubbed his ears, I felt my own tension fade.

After one last pat, I left him there. I glanced back from the door. There he was, tail wagging, standing amidst the muddy footprints. Behind him, I hardly noticed the holes in the flowerbeds, the beaten paths in the turf, the remnants of the porch swing, and the bits and pieces of chew toys he had enjoyed in times past.

High maintenance. Expensive. Rambunctious at times.

For the love of a dog, we endure it all. Somehow God knew that if he gave us a dog to love, we would be better people. And Togo seems to understand that his place in creation is to run and play and love us. Such an understanding of our own places to bring joy would be good for all of us.

Time to Let Go and Watch

A couple of days ago, I posted on my other website, PeaceBytes.org, my thoughts as I contrasted the over-the-top, now-famous rant of Richard Sherman. For those of you not involved in social media — or any other media for that matter — Mr. Sherman is the cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks.

richard shermanFollowing the Seahawks win over the San Francisco Forty-Niners last Sunday night, Mr. Sherman made some less than graceful quotes considered by many to be worse than most of the other narcissistic statements made by many of our celebrities these days. In my post on PeaceBytes, I proposed that we compare and contrast his statement with one of many profound quotes from the late Martin Luther King, Jr.

I caught a little bit of the news last night. According to that national television network and, indeed, with supporting video footage, it appears that Mr. Sherman did apologize for his statement.

That’s enough for me . . . for now. We all make mistakes. The real measure of Mr. Sherman’s character is whether he uses this to change his future behavior. So, I’ll be watching. And since I don’t really follow professional football, or college or high school football, or even internationally, soccer, that will take some effort on my part.

The apology is a crucial moment of character. It can be a catapult for improvement or the first point of sliding in a downward spiral. The important thing for those of us who witness apologies is to accept them and to cheer the apologizer to the higher path.

So, Mr. Sherman. Thanks for the apology. I am truly hoping that this is a catapult and not a slide.

And for those of you who may have heard apologies from me, I’m praying that you are hoping the same for me.

All You Have to Do is Ask

“I don’t know what to do.”

Those six words are familiar to me. I’d like to tell you it’s because of my position and because people seek me out for advice. While, that statement would have an element of truth, the deeper foundations are set on the bedrock of my own experience.

How many times have I struggled with the questions, “What should I do?” and “Why am I plagued with problems?”

In recent years, in those moments when I can slowly exhale and gather myself, I turn to one of my favorite biblical passages, the letter of James. The writer (probably the brother the of Jesus) takes on the important issue of true leadership . . . by thoroughly calling all of us to be servants. He begins by addressing our fears and our feelings of inadequacy.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

 Trials, tribulations, sorrows — all should be greeted with joy?!

But that seems stupid . . .until you focus on the reason.

Challenges must be faced. By so doing, we develop a spirit of perseverance. And perseverance — keeping on — allows us to grow and mature.

We all know that in times loaded with worry, grief, and pain everything becomes more difficult. Even thinking about the obstacles can leave us fatigued, frightened, and even angry.

I’ve often been embarrassed to go to others for help. Even asking for advice is difficult. I’m sure part of that is my pride and ego. Sometimes, however, it’s because I don’t want to hear someone else’s counsel. I don’t want to believe that there is an answer for me and to grapple with the next prescribed step.

Yet James promises that I can always ask God for wisdom and that He will always deliver it.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Those who doubt should not think they will receive anything from the Lord; they are double-minded and unstable in all they do.

One caveat: I’m not allowed to doubt that God will send wisdom my way. 

Doubt is uncertainty. If I allow two thoughts to struggle for my allegiance, I become . . . double-minded. I must place my trust in God. If I ask him for wisdom, I should expect for it to come. And ultimately, I must act on the wisdom He provides. Doing anything else interferes with the promise.

God wants single-minded servants. And single-minded servants make the best followers and the best leaders.

Today’s New International Version, Holy Bible, James 1:2-8.

 

 


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