He blew around me and then cut into my lane, and I was so annoyed that’s how I responded.
It could have been worse, I know, but immediately afterward I couldn’t help but think about how childish I had been. And whether my children in the backseat had seen me. How exactly would I explain it to them?
Well, Mommy thought that person wasn’t driving well, so she stuck out her tongue at him so he would know.
Great lesson there, Mom.
I’m often struck by how we become different people when we’re behind the wheel. One of my seminary ethics professors focused his studies on this subject—the way we Christians don’t act very Christian at all when we drive.
What’s behind it?
I believe there’s something about traveling in our own protective steel and glass bubbles that perpetuates the illusion that we are alone out there, that allows us to feel that the people around us in other cars don’t really matter. After all, it’s hard to think of other drivers as people when all we can really see of them are their bumper stickers or headlights or the make and model of their vehicle. And it’s a lot easier to get mad at, say, a Lexus than a person. At least for me.
So when someone cuts us off or doesn’t let us in or changes lanes without a turn signal, or whatever our little pet peeves are, we are often quick to feel outraged.
But I have become increasingly convinced that we need to address these feelings, that they are not OK. They are in fact dangerous, physically and also spiritually.
First of all, this outrage does no good. Here’s one of my favorites. Someone pulls out in front of you and because you have to slow a tiny bit to let them in, you make sure they know about it by speeding up so that you can dramatically stop just behind them and then tailgate them for the next mile or so. I see this all the time. I’ve been guilty of it. Yet it helps no one. Even if that person pulled out in front of us too late on purpose, we’re making the conditions even more dangerous by driving so closely behind them. Really, what result do we expect out of this tailgating? That the tailgatee will just pull over and let us go by? Or jump out of the car and issue us an apology, perhaps with a $5 Starbucks gift card to demonstrate their sincerity? Doubtful on both counts.
Second, and even more worrisome from a spiritual standpoint, the feeling behind our road rage is always a sense of superiority–that we are the better driver, that where we are going is more important, that we are more important.
Driving around like we and those in our vehicles are the only people around is just not Christian.
As 1 Cor 12:12 reads, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (NRSV).
This is one of my favorite passages, although I often don’t like what it means to put it into practice. We were created to be part of a community. Basically, life, the work of faith, is just one big group project. (And frankly, I’m one of those who hated group projects in school.)
Being in a car makes it easy to forget about that, to forget the way we are meant to function: as Christ’s body. And although a body can work while missing a few of its parts, no part can function apart from the body. We need each other. All of us have a role.
So as much as I’d like to think that I am a perfectly autonomous being tooling around in my car, someone who only needs to be concerned with myself and where I’m going, the truth is that I need all those people around me and so I should be concerned about them and their welfare and where they’re going . . . yes, even the ones who are really bad drivers.
I’m not suggesting that we all quit driving or only take public transportation (although a little of that would probably be good). Instead I suggest that we reflect a bit more on the idea of the Church as Christ’s body when we’re driving.
The next time a fellow driver does something I don’t like, even something that I feel endangers me and my children, I’m going to seek to remember this. And comment to my kids, “Wow, that was scary. And unsafe. I’m glad we’re OK. I hope they’re OK. Do you think we should pray for that person?”
I love putting this question to them because their answer is always yes. So even if I feel grudging about it, my children can yet again help lead me into a more Christlike place. Even when I’m behind the wheel.
How have you been challenged to react as a Christian while you’re behind the wheel? What has helped?
This post first appeared on 1corinthians13parenting.com.