Dear tailgater. I see the evil eye you are giving me. The impatient look. The “what are you doing, lady, learn how to drive” look. I see these looks because I have looked at people in the same manner. In fact, I did that just today.
I have said to myself or to my kids, “That person needs to go back to driver’s training,” or “What in the world is this person doing?” or “Can this person drive any slower?”
Sometimes though we have to put ourselves in the shoes of others, as we want others to do for us. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that the other driver — or person being rude or irritating us — might be thinking, “if they only knew.”
Today, I needed someone to think those very thoughts. And someone to show me mercy.
If you only knew.
If you only knew that the car I am driving would not start earlier (it was my husband Chris’s Jeep.) And, after several tries but the engine not even making a noise anymore, I knew I was stuck outside Tigard’s 24 Hour Fitness, with a car that would not start and it was my twins’ 16th birthday today.
I could not reach my husband to come and bail me out, and I had a ton to do at home and I had no reading material in the car and my cell phone was almost dead.
So I sat there waiting, hoping someone would offer to jump-start me or I thought of others I could call to help me, but I did not want to bother anyone. Or I hoped that the car would start miraculously on its own. Perhaps, the engine was just flooded. I paged my husband again at work but no answer while I sat there with rain pouring down my windshield. I wondered, Lord, what are you trying to teach me?
After about an hour, I called AAA. My membership, they told me, had expired three years earlier. Great, now how much will it cost me? Double what it usually does. I had little choice really.
Pavle checked the battery and the starter and a few other things foreign to me, and the battery was indeed running low. And, when Pavle gave the car a jump-start, the engine kept going out when I let my foot off the gas. And I asked Pavle how I was going to get home if the engine keeps giving out when I release the gas pedal, and he said I could always have the car towed.
I asked him how long it would take to get a tow truck here, and he said it would take another hour, but I did not have an hour to wait for a tow truck. I had already been waiting for an hour and a half for the AAA truck to get there.
Then, what he said next was such a reminder of what we need to remember in life. That it’s not that bad. Compared with other things in life, my situation is minor.
Here’s this guy from Serbia, a country that has known war, and he’s probably experienced atrocities in his home country beyond anything I can imagine, while I was worrying about an hour of my life, and having to get my car towed.
So, I just figured I would drive home. I had nothing to lose. I just reasoned I would not let my foot off the gas, while keeping my foot on the break, and slowly revving the engine.
It made for some rickety driving and some slow driving and some not-so-etiquette-like driving, as I had to pull in front of folks because I could not stop the car, fearing it would give out. Okay, call it cut people off. And, when I cut people off, I had to be careful not to go too quickly as I did not want to chance having to stop later. And, I know people were giving me the proverbial middle finger as they sped past me.
If they only knew, I thought, that if I let my foot off the gas, my car would stall again and I’d be calling AAA, this time to tow me. And then I’d be waiting another hour and I just did not have another hour to spare.
I prayed and made it home and vowed to never drive my husband’s car.
A little while later, I took my 10-year-old Gus in my Jetta to get his present for the twins’ birthday and then went on to find birthday balloons. I was making some good timing, which was great, as I had to get home to prepare for the rest of the birthday.
Oh man. How rude, I thought, especially since the driver was going really slowly after pulling in front of me out of the Starbucks parking lot. My rule: if you pull in front of a car, have the courtesy to at least drive quickly. Did not happen this time. I started to get irritated and my blood pressure was rising as I thought, people, you need to learn courtesy. Or better yet, to drive.
As my irritation level rose, it hit me that I was that car. That is, I was the rude proverbial driver of car that pulled in front of me today.
Okay, I get it Lord. I get the lesson. I realized that it was God’s Spirit that perhaps was speaking to me, and I thought and prayed, “Help me to listen, to be aware when God is trying to teach me something, and to change accordingly. I wanted to think of others as Christ does. With mercy.
And, in this particular situation, I began to realize that I did not know what circumstances this person who pulled in front of me was tangled inside of. Perhaps, they were in a situation like the one I had been in earlier today, with a broken down car at 24 Hour Fitness, on my kids’ birthday.
It was mercy this person needed, not judgment. Just like God gives us.
And, perhaps I needed to realize that, though it is a pain to have car issues, there are far greater issues out there. Like wars. Refugee camps. Sickness. Death. Like Pavle reminded me.
If we only knew. And remembered.