July 5, 2023

From the Rector…

No doubt you’ve been stuck on the interstate at some point in life. I-65 on beach “turn-over” days is the worst. I remember driving home from Camp McDowell after the blessing of Bethany Village on a Saturday afternoon and it took me seven hours to drive from Camp to Montgomery. SEVEN HOURS! And I never passed a wreck, a state trooper, or even a construction zone. It was just that much traffic. Traffic has a way of bringing out the worst in us. Patient, lovely people who are at peace with God and their neighbor can become wild, blood-thirsty Vikings on an interstate clogged with cars and trucks and tractor-trailers.  

Recently, I was driving to Birmingham in the midst of dense traffic on I-65. The fast lane was averaging about 77 miles an hour and the slow lane was impassable. Rarely was there a break in the slow lane in which someone might be able to shoot around the cars in the fast lane and break free from the oppression of metal and rubber and exhaust. Of course, there were those who tried. One car slid out of the fast lane right behind me, raced up on my right side in an attempt to pass and seconds before he was to rear-end the car in the slow lane, he pulled in front of me—cutting me off. Had I not been watching him diligently, he would have hit my front end. Instead, I slammed on brakes hoping the car behind me was also paying attention. He was and we all avoided a wreck—though just barely.  

In that moment of relief, I also got angry. The adrenaline was pumping and out-paced reason. I began to honk. The car that cut me off was directly in front of me and it couldn’t go anywhere. So I pulled up—maybe a little too close—and honked. About a minute later, I honked again. After another minute, I honked again. I kept honking at one-minute intervals for the next five miles. And as I honked, I began to calm down. I knew my honking was not going to change any aspect of the situation—but it did start to make me feel better. And though I was becoming more rational toward the fifth mile, I honked one final time—just because.

Anger and frustration often take hold of us, and we feel helpless to change our circumstances. Some of us will simply clam up—not liking what is going on in the world around us but helpless to change it and so we simply accept it, keep our heads down, and get on with life. Others of us might shout out (or honk) our grievances—not taking the time to really understand what the motives or circumstances of others might be that have caused the situation. There are those who will try to pacify a situation, throwing money or resources at it in hopes that it will move to the periphery and not take as much energy or time so we can get back to living. Most of us follow one of these courses of action—not because it will make things better necessarily, but because we really don’t want to make things worse. That isn’t an altruistic motive—it is fear.

The guy who cut me off may well have been in a frantic hurry to get to the hospital for the birth of his first child or the last moments of his mother’s life. Or he might have simply been a selfish jerk who wanted to drive faster than the pace of traffic. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is how I respond. My honking was not helpful in the situation other than it allowed me to get rid of frustration and anxiety that had been building in me throughout the trip—way before this guy ever cut me off. But what was more helpful was that as I began to calm down, I realized that. Traffic had been causing me frustration—I had been tense and on alert for miles and miles and the build up of that tension was causing me suffering. The guy who passed me was probably experiencing exactly the same thing. And though his actions were more dangerous than mine, they were motivated from the same exact place. Just like me, he did not want to suffer. Just like me, he wanted peace and joy.

Deep down, we are all the same. We all desire to be free from suffering and fear and anger. We all desire peace and joy. Every single person in this world aspires to happiness. That is the way we are all alike. When we can understand one another from this place, then we embrace compassion instead of judgment. And instead of honking at people on the interstate, or even cutting off one another, we begin to find peace and live from the place of humility that does not demand our own desires but allows for the actions and decisions of others—even when we might not agree with them.

Light and Life and Safe Travels,