21
Aug
15

the guy in the other car

I glanced over to the right and looked.

Not a long, lingering, borderline-creepy sort of “stalker look,” you understand. Just enough of a look to see what the person looked like who had just made that really annoying maneuver in traffic.

The sin this person had committed was indeed egregious: made a lane change that was not proceeded by a turn signal and which – although not actually causing me to touch my brakes – had very rudely interrupted my forward progress. I had to see if that person actually LOOKED as thoughtless as they had just acted. (Whatever that looks like!)

                  And so in that sideward glance, here is the shocking truth that was revealed to me: he looked pretty gosh-darned normal.

He looked like a person who probably had a family and a job… who probably had parents who brought him up, clothed and fed him, who saw to his education, who had guided him through some of the struggles and questions of the teen years and early adulthood and who might or might not still be living.

He looked like a man who likely has a small group of very close friends he confides in, hangs out with now and then, and shares inside jokes with. In all likelihood, I surmised, he has some facets of his life that have really come together well and are giving him a great deal of joy and satisfaction… things about which he can step back, smile, and say a silent, “YES!” about.

By the same token, I thought, he probably also has those facets of his life that bring him stress… or grief… or an inner pain that is very real, and yet which he just can’t quite put his finger on and name.

He looked like a man who is a product of an intricate web of complex relationships… always ebbing and flowing and changing and challenging his ability to connect.

He looked like a man comprised of hopes and dreams… triumphs and tragedies… joys and despairs.

In short, he looked a lot like me. He also looked a lot like a beloved child of God.

I have discovered that one of the devices I employ from time to time in my efforts to make the world around me a more manageable place is the CLASSIFICATION device. I see something – or someone – and I know that if I am able to CLASSIFY them as being either THIS or THAT, I can figure out more quickly how to deal with that person or that thing.

I call it a coping mechanism.

But here is the thing: my “coping mechanism” has a dark side. It can rather quickly become a “demeaning” mechanism. It can be used to strip away the wonder, the uniqueness, and the dazzling complexity of a person in favor of giving me a quick, easy way to deal with them.

“He’s a control freak!” “She’s temperamental.” “They are all such hotheads.” “She is reliable.” “He is sloppy.” “She’s a talker.” “He is such a liberal.” “She is such a conservative.” “They aren’t generally good at math.”

So here is the question: why is it unreasonable to believe that the same beauty, wonder, complexity, weirdness, and rareness that we relish about our own lives is somehow not present in the lives of that person in the car sitting next to us at the red light? Or in the next pew? Or in a village in Afghanistan?

Today, O God, I pray that you would stifle my urge to classify… that you would help me take joy in celebrating the unpredictable beauty of the people you have filled the world with. Gracious God, please lead me in the direction of giving deep and authentic thanks for every one of them. In your son’s name I pray… AMEN.

“He’s a control freak!” “She’s temperamental.” “They are all such hotheads.” “She is reliable.” “He is sloppy.” “She’s a talker.” “He is such a liberal.” “She is such a conservative.” “They aren’t generally good at math.”

So here is the question: why is it unreasonable to believe that the same beauty, wonder, complexity, weirdness, and rareness that we relish about our own lives is somehow not present in the lives of that person in the car sitting next to us at the red light? Or in the next pew? Or in a village in Afghanistan?

Today, O God, I pray that you would stifle my urge to classify… that you would help me take joy in celebrating the unpredictable beauty of the people you have filled the world with. Gracious God, please lead me in the direction of giving deep and authentic thanks for every one of them. In your son’s name I pray… AMEN.


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