He has a right!
No, this isn’t about abortion or any of those deep moral issues that elicit such passionate arguments pro and con. It is simply about the right to be ourselves–the right to have our own opinions, habits, strengths and weaknesses without having to feel eternally defensive about being who we are…and about the other guy’s rights, too.
Actually, that’s something I have to remind myself every morning and evening as I drive across the two bridges between THQ and where I live in San Pedro. The drive takes me through the Los Angeles Harbor area, which is kind of the equivalent of the left and right ventricle of the “heart” of freight traffic. No matter what time you take the drive, you are sure to be slowed up by the far-from-smooth flow of tractor-trailer loads of containers moving in and out of the area.
There are bridges on either side–bridges with steep inclines, causing the huge, heavily loaded trucks to move at the nerve-raking pace of a sleepy snail, while the minute hand of the clock on my dashboard seems to take delight in moving ahead–and I am going to be late–again! That’s when I find myself wanting to emulate the brash and single-minded drivers who weave in and out of traffic, slowing the rest of us up as truckers slam on their brakes. And the next thing you know, one–or two or three–of the truckers signals the intent to move into–my lane!!! My first impulse is, “Step on the gas–you don’t want to be stuck behind that!”
Fortunately, I have learned that one cannot always act on one’s first impulse (to be perfectly candid, I rarely can do that–my first impulse is almost never the wisest choice I could make!) Anyhow, whether I like it or not, those trucks have a right to be on the road–and just as for me, there will inevitably come a point where they need to change lanes or make a turn in order to reach their destination. And though I have a deadline to meet, THQ is not going to fall apart if I am thirty seconds later than I already am! So I yield to that silent voice that says, “Back off! Try to behave like the Christian you claim to be,” and slow down a bit to give the trucker a chance to complete his move.
It happened again this morning. I got to playing with the cats who graciously allow me to share their home, and I forgot to watch the clock. I was late, and naturally the trucks were especially numerous. When that turn signal went on, I had to force my foot to refrain from pressing down on the gas pedal! But the driver had a right…he had made a legal decision–he had a job that he needed to do…and I had no right to…well, you know!
I wonder–would Jesus have had to force his foot to move from the gas pedal to the brake?
Somehow, I don’t think so. I think that perhaps Jesus would have smiled, and waved the driver to come on over. I believe that his first thought would have been to make the other driver’s life a bit simpler, to ease his burden just a bit, rather than thinking first how inconvenient it will be to have that slow-moving, smelly truck in front of him.
I think he would have recognized that the driver was an individual, doing his best to accomplish what was important to him…and that what was important to the driver (Meeting a deadline? Loading and unloading in a hurry, in order to be able to put a few extra dollars in the bank? Finally getting a chance to knock off and get some sleep?) was valid and the guy had the right to pursue it.
And thinking of Jesus causes a bit of light to be reflected back on my own attitudes. How often do I criticize others because their priorities are not my own precious priorities? How often am I offended at trivial habits or “signature behaviors” of others who are really just trying to say to their world, “I am me. Just let me be me, okay?” How often do I get irritated when others are too slow…or too hasty…or too sensitive…or too insensitive…or too aggressive …or too passive…or too hesitant to act…or too impulsive…
O, Lord, give me the wisdom and compassion I need to see others as you see them as individuals who have the right to be different from me, the right to pursue their own dreams, their own paths. Help me to be concerned about people, yes, and seek to bring about change . . . but not to focus on behaviors that offend me. Remind me daily that my mission is simply to help others to become more intimately acquainted with you. After all, you’ve given them the right . . .