Friday, September 30, 2011

Wrong Way with a Smile

Be merciful, just as your Father (God) is merciful. Luke 6:36
This morning, I watched as a man turned right from a one way street into the left lane of the side street I was on. His minivan almost went head-on into the Suburban in front of me. Of course, the Suburban laid on the horn. But then she just kept laying on it. Long after the guy had adjusted his course and gotten back into his own lane, the horn just kept on declaring what an idiot he was.

As I passed him he was smiling nervously, waving his apologies to everyone. I could tell he wasn't trying to drive in the wrong lane. And it didn't even seem like he was just being careless. I can't be sure, but it seemed more like he forgot what country he was driving in. It was more of an "Oh yeah, that's right," than it was an "I shouldn't be texting."

I smiled some forgiveness toward him. And as I drove on I thought about how, in relationships, we can make a careless comment, or a thoughtless gesture, and we'll find ourselves running head-on into someone else. And usually, if the other person is paying attention, they'll honk their disapproval. Sometimes it's a little "tap of the horn", like a gentle comment, or body language that says, "Hey, pay attention, there are other people here." But sometimes people do what the Suburban did--they lay on the horn with all sorts of insults and fanfare to declare to everyone around what a complete idiot you are.

I know that, for me, when someone decides to use my blunder as an example for everyone to gawk at, I get defensive. In my flesh, I meet their disapproval with an exaggerated disapproval of my own. I'm not saying that's the right response, but it is the natural one. However, when someone is gentle with me, recognizing that my humanity has failed me once again, and if they're humble enough to admit that "there, but for the grace of God, go I," my defenses go down, and my sensitivities (and apologies) go up.

This Sunday I'm talking about the next quality of God's uncommon wisdom for relationships -- MERCY.  Mercy is an odd thing. We know we need it; we'll even beg to receive it. But we hate to have to give it, even if we know we're supposed to.

Wendy was just merciful toward me. I've been a bit of a crank today. I bit off more than I could chew on something, and I'm frustrated with myself. And so I snapped at her several times this morning. After 25 years of marriage I had no problem hearing her "honk" at me; her body language clearly said that something was wrong. So I asked her and she told me about it. To carry out the above analogy, I had carelessly veered into her lane. She was honest about it, but she also gave grace for me to say I'm sorry. And she let off the horn.

Nehemiah 9:17 says that God is "a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love." Let's follow his lead in our relationships. Be forgiving, gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Amen.