How Would Jesus Drive?
The following text is from a continuing education event I attended at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary called The Writing Pastor. It is an account that is some non-fiction, some fiction. Enjoy.
“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye.”
Sunday afternoons following worship my family and I make our weekly pilgrimage to Wal-Mart. We brought this ritual with us to Ohio because in West Virginia where I grew up, it is state law. One Sunday afternoon I was driving along to one of two Springfield Wal-marts. I was unaware of the moral lesson I was about to learn.
The store’s entrance is a side road that runs between the busy North Bechtle Avenue and a plaza parking lot. You have to make a left hand turn across a busy stream of traffic to reach the lot. It requires attentiveness and assertiveness.
I maneuvered across the line of traffic and then immediately stopped behind another car to keep from hitting it. The driver behind me did not wait to make his turn. He stopped short of our rear bumper but turned in behind us before it was safe to do so. He was assuming that his quick turn in front of someone would give him an unimpeded path into the parking lot. He was wrong. Because I was directly in front of him and hindered from going any further, he was left in harm’s way.
His response was an angry one. He laid on his horn and sped around me into a lane of oncoming traffic. His car was one of those huge SUVs boasting 10 gallons to the mile. It was an ugly Ford that was sea foam green with beige trim. It was evidence that someone in Detroit hated Eddie Bauer. It was the bridesmaids dress of paintjobs.
I glimpsed the back of his car as he went by and spotted an Ichthus, one of those little silver fish symbols that signifies to advertise that the driver is a Christian. Ichthus is an acronym of Greek letters that stands for Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior.
It is a common symbol that looks like this:
In the early Church under the rule of the Roman Empire the Ichthus served as a greeting between fellow believers. It was used to indicate you could safely identify as Christian to the other person without fear of punishment. One person drew one half of the fish in the dirt or sand. The other person completed the fish if they were Christian. It was useful because you faced the real danger of death in Rome for being Christian.
Contemporary persecution of Christians takes on milder forms of torture like having to explain away things Pat Robertson says or having to repeatedly hear about Rev. Phelps from Westboro Baptist in Kansas picketing funerals because of Fred’s own hatred of homosexual people.
The Ichthus on the back of the Ford made something inside me snap. Being 40 years old and MOSTLY over testosterone fueled bursts of anger when something didn’t go my way I felt as if I was in a position to confront my fellow brother in Christ. I told my wife I was going to speak to him, admonish him, and possibly smite him as well. I am smart enough not to put any markings on my car that would indicate I am a Christian. When I made stupid driving decisions people have no further reason to criticize Christians.
My wife Sarah disagreed with my intent. She saw no reason to go speak to the guy. She is laid back, even tempered, and peaceful. In her wisdom she chooses to avoid confrontation and weighs which battles to fight. She recommended just letting it go.
I think she worded it like this: “Oh will you get over yourself, stop acting like a child and just go buy the damn toothpaste so we can get our girls some lunch.” Strong in the force is she. She’s like Yoda only real, younger, taller, not as green, and really nice looking. Other than that she’s just like him.
So Being 40 and NOT COMPLETELY over my testosterone driven bursts of anger I found his car and walked up to it anyway. I approached his door and yelled at his closed window “WHAT DOES THAT FISH ON THE BACK OF YOUR CAR MEAN TO YOU?”
He was eating with conviction and was a man of at least 58 years of age. I was surprised at his angry response as I was at my own anger. I expected him to display shame, or penitence. Instead it became apparent that his anger at having to drive around me had only grown.
I could smell taco meat and Old Spice when he approached. It was strange that I thought of my dad and the little bottle with the sailboat on it in that moment and how I used to give him a new bottle for Christmas every year until I was nine.
“Don’t start a fight son”, was what dad always said. “But if you get in a fight make sure and finish it.”
I didn’t want to fight I just wanted to prove myself right. The man was dressed in his Sunday clothing as though he had just come from church. He should know better then I thought. After all I think Jesus said “Forgive others as God has first forgiven you, but before you forgive make sure they other person knows that they are wrong and you are right.” -Jambalaya 3:57.
“How DARE you come up to my car when I’m with my family!”
My response I didn’t say out loud was “Well what about you acting like a horses ass in front of your family with your display of driving and lack of courtesy and patience?”
I retreat a few steps but repeated “WHAT DOES THAT FISH ON THE BACK OF YOUR CAR MEAN TO YOU? HUH? YOU DON’T ACT LIKE IT MEANS A THING!” I was satisfied I had the last word.
He shouted at my back “Don’t come near my car and start talking to me about….” Then I turned and out-yelled him
“WHAT DOES THAT FISH MEAN TO YOU? YOU JUST RAN YOUR CAR AROUND ME AND LAID ON YOUR HORN! WHAT DOES THAT FISH MEAN TO YOU?”
I walked away and thought. “I can’t believe this guy. Acting out in anger with family in the car, and on a Sunday, in a Wal-Mart parking lot of all places, after coming from church, a grown man.”
Just then I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the window of a passing car. I saw the angry look on my face. I felt the adrenaline in my veins and my pulse thumped in my forehead. I forced myself to slow down, step inside the door, and breathe,
Then the lyrics to the Michael Jackson song “Man in the Mirror” echoed in my head. “I’m gonna make a change for once in my life, it’s gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference, gonna make it right…” I’m just messin’ with you. I’m corny but not THAT corny.
Instead I went into the store still angry and feeling a rush of fear. I reached the checkout lane and made my purchase. I had calmed down. I confessed to God and myself what a moron I had been. Moments before I confronted a man in public over behavior that I myself exhibited, poor impulse control.
I left the store to seek out the man and apologize for my part in what had happened. I saw his car but no one was in it. I walked past the rear hatch of the SUV and I noticed in the left hand corner of the tailgate was a Bass Pro Shop sticker and not an Ichthus.
I got into my car and checked my eyes in the vanity mirror. Then I asked my wife if I had a log stuck in my eye. “Constantly” she laughed.