Grace on the road
A few weeks ago, I hopped in my car at the end of a full day, turned out of the church parking lot, and headed north on Brady Street to make my way home. Most days, I’m in no particular hurry. I’ve always enjoyed those few evening moments in the car as a time to catch my breath and quiet my mind just a bit.
But on this particular day, I hadn’t traveled more than a few blocks before I found myself behind a slow moving car that seemed to be in even less of a hurry than I was. Perhaps it was the events of the full day or my hangry stomach that was more than ready for dinner, but I was lacking patience to remain behind this sedan for too long. So I got set to maneuver to a different lane, only to have them start to shift as well. Without the use of their turn signal, we were now both in the same situation, just one lane to the right. But now with at least one of us a bit more aggravated.
My patience was wearing quite thin, and I’ll admit that I was nearly ready to lay on the horn (perhaps a little too eager to do so) when I noticed a yellow sticker on the side of the car that said “Student Driver.” Upon a closer look, I could see a young teenager with hands clutched on the wheel.
Having realized this was likely a fairly inexperienced driver, still learning both the responsibility and skill of safe driving, I immediately found myself much calmer. I quickly thought back to my own days of fearfully sitting behind the wheel of a car for the first time, equal parts terrified and thrilled at the new possibilities. So I gave the car a little extra room and eventually made my way into another lane, smiling as I passed by, seeing the instructor in the passenger seat offering guidance.
As I finished my commute, I thought about how quickly I offered some semblance of grace to the driver once I understood their particular circumstances. How willing I was to be a bit more patient, and give a little extra room on the road, once I discovered more of the story. I wondered to myself if I would’ve been just as understanding if the sign on the car hadn’t been there. The answer: probably not.
It was a brief but humbling reminder to me that we simply don’t know what stories and experiences any of us are carrying around at any given time. What “signs” would be attached to each of us that would signal the need for a little extra understanding or compassion as we travel through our days.
I guess that might be why Paul says that, first and foremost, love is patient and kind. Or why the fruits of the Spirit (peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, etc.) are the sorts of things that are most often needed when interacting with others. Come to think of it, Jesus seemed to approach nearly every interaction with others, even those who surely must’ve made him a bit aggravated, with a hefty dose of compassion and understanding.
It seems to me that we might imagine every person walking (or driving) near us wearing their own sign: “Child of God.” Reminding us that, no matter the circumstances, every person is worthy of our care and patience.