The other day, I asked my wife to bring my daughters to downtown DC for lunch because it was my youngest child’s birthday, and I wanted us to celebrate as a family. It was probably a bad idea.
My wife picked me up in front of my building, and we began the painful process of trying to find parking within a quarter-mile radius of the restaurant where we wanted to eat. We drove around for several minutes as the stress mounted until finally, finally we saw a woman getting into her car, and I rolled down the window and asked if she was leaving. She was, thankfully.
We waited in front of her car until she pulled out, and then my wife started to back into the space – but then she suddenly stopped.
“That guy behind me isn’t moving,” she said.
“I guess he doesn’t realize we’re parking,” I said. “Wave at him and tell him he can go around.”
My wife rolled down the window and waved at the guy to go around, but he just sat there.
“Oh my gosh, he’s trying to get this spot from behind us,” she said.
It Gets Ugly
I wouldn’t even turn around to look at the guy, who my wife reported was continuing to inch forward to block her from backing up. So we began discussing strategies for dealing with the wacko behind us, hoping that in the meantime, he would give up.
The thought crossed my mind that perhaps the most Christlike thing to do would be to give the man the spot and trust the Lord to provide a better one for us; but I quickly dismissed that thought and decided instead that I should confront him.
I reluctantly opened the door, half-expecting to see some wild-eyed, middle-aged jerk driving a convertible Miata; but instead, it was an elderly couple in a minivan who looked like tourists. I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt.
“Can you back up?” I asked politely.
They both raised their index fingers and moved their forearms back and forth like they were traffic cops directing traffic forward. I was confused.
“Can you back up?” I asked more loudly.
The old lady in the passenger’s seat pursed her lips, shook her head, and kept moving her forearms back and forth. In my mind, I heard the words, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39); and I decided that today would be the day that I wasn’t going to lose.
“Wait them out, honey,” I said after I got back in the car. My wife, who was growing more anxious by the second, took a deep breath and waited.
Finally, the couple gave up, but not before they drove past our open windows, and the old lady looked at our daughters and sarcastically yelled, “You’re setting a great example!”
At that very moment, my wife and I realized that although the woman was clearly as mean as a snake, she was right.
Not Doing My Duty
In Oswald Chambers’ classic book, My Utmost for His Highest, he says,
In the natural realm, if a person does not hit back, it is because he is a coward. But in the spiritual realm, it is the very evidence of the Son of God in him if he does not hit back. When you are insulted, you must not only not resent it, but you must make it an opportunity to exhibit the Son of God in your life. And you cannot imitate the nature of Jesus— it is either in you or it is not. A personal insult becomes an opportunity for a saint to reveal the incredible sweetness of the Lord Jesus.
The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is not, ‘Do your duty,’ but is, in effect, ‘Do what is not your duty.’ It is not your duty to go the second mile, or to turn the other cheek, but Jesus said that if we are His disciples, we will always do these things. . . .
Never look for righteousness in the other person, but never cease to be righteous yourself. We are always looking for justice, yet the essence of the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is— Never look for justice, but never cease to give it.
So, um, anyway – yeah, if I had the chance to do it all over again, I would’ve shown that cranky old couple grace – which is exactly what I’m going to need if I’m going to do things differently next time. Thanks in advance, Lord Jesus.