Are you emotionally engaged when you get cut off by someone while driving? Does it make you angry? In this post Bobbi Junior reminds us that we are to obey Christ’s teachings, even when we find it is difficult to “love your neighbour.”
Making Up Stories
I love to tell stories. I make them up all the time, and I bet you do too.
The trouble is, some of the stories I make up become real to me. I begin to take them as truth and carry out my day as though they’d really happened.
I bet you do too.
You think not?
I’m going to challenge you in this post so read carefully.
Do you remember the last time someone cut you off on the road, or pushed in front of you in the line at the check-out counter?
What thoughts, what story came to mind?
I might have thought, “What an arrogant so-and-so. Who do they think they are? As though their time is more important than mine. Some people are so rude…”
Isn’t that a story? I’ve determined the character of this person. I’ve pronounced their personality. I’ve proclaimed that they think they’re better than me. And I’m emotionally engaged.
Yup, that’s a story.
This isn’t the end, though. Because my emotions have entered into the process, I now go about my day fuming and fussing about the state of people here in my city, about the demise of manners, patience, and gentleness. I take my annoyance to my next encounter, and heaven help us, if someone there looks at me the wrong way, boy, have I got a story ready to dump on them. They’re probably the next villain in my plot, while my role is that of the humble, downtrodden victim.
And when I link up with a friend or family member, I’m probably going to tell them this story too, so they can join me in my fussing and fuming about the state of people today.
A Real Story
Many years ago, a friend brought this concept to me with a story of her own. Her telling of it burned a different message permanently into my memory, and I want to do the same for you, because it’s helped me over the years tell myself a different story.
It was a Saturday, a sunny day in August. The setting was a quiet acreage, with a two lane road that meandered past the lanes leading to each secluded home. There was traffic, but thank goodness it was light because suddenly a speeding red sports car shot out of one of the lanes and cut into the traffic. Tires squealed as the sports car found it’s traction and sped up. In the driver’s seat was an older man, bushy grey hair, wearing a tank top. Beside him sat an attractive young blond, her long hair blowing as the wind rushed through the open windows.
What story would you tell if this car had cut you off? It sure looked like a middle-aged dude trying to impress a hot young gal with his fast driving and souped up sports car. Can’t you just hear the comments in the other cars as he sped past, cutting in and out of traffic? Shameless. Absolutely shameless.
What those watching couldn’t see, couldn’t know, was that across the seat of that sports car lay a little girl. Her head rested on her daddy’s lap, her feet on her big sister’s. A towel full of blood was wrapped around one small foot as her sister held tight, trying to stem the bleeding. 10 minutes earlier little Elsa had managed to get her foot caught under the lawn mower. Now she was barely conscious from blood loss, and it was a race to get her to the hospital in time.
Elsa did get to the hospital. The doctors did save her foot. Today she won’t wear sandals because she’s self-conscious about the scars, and one missing toe. But she’s alive and walking.
The story, the real story, was beyond anything the others on the road that day might have imagined.
Somehow, when we believe we’ve been wronged in some way, we immediately leap to the conclusion that the other person is less than proper, deficient, morally bankrupt. Our natural self wants to think the worst of them.
But if it was me cutting someone off, I’d know the reason. I’d know my good excuse. I’d give myself leeway, knowing this wasn’t normally who I am.
Love Your Neighbour
We’re all familiar with Christ’s command to love your neighbour as yourself. But have you ever read what Paul adds to this in his letter to the Galatians? In Ch. 5 he says:
“Love your neighbour as yourself. If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”
The story I tell myself about someone else’s behaviour determines whether my heart fills with love, or whether I walk away wanting to bite and devour them.
Let’s go back to the beginning. Let’s say I’ve just arrived in line at the check-out, and a garishly dressed, tattooed young man pushes by me with his cart, nudging in front of me.
What story do I tell myself? That he’s a rude, self-serving, disrespectful punk? Do I feed the desire in my heart to bite and devour him?
Or do I look into my own past and find a different story.
What was I like at that age? Did I get distracted and not pay attention to the needs of others? Did I get put down by grown-ups and feel they were all the enemy? Did I dress in a way that set me apart from those adults who treated me like I was nothing? Was I sometimes hurting so much in my teenage heart that I didn’t even notice other people around me?
Maybe I can catch that young man’s eye and smile. Say something pleasant. Just because.
What story are you going to tell yourself tomorrow, when someone rubs you the wrong way? Will it be a story that feeds Christ’s love-your-neighbour command? Or will it be one that perpetuates that biting, devouring attitude that will not only eat away at your own soul, but spill onto the souls of others too.
What kind of story are you going to tell yourself about the person who gets in your way? You might start writing it now!
Bobbi’s program, “Not Me Lord” airs on HopeStreamRadio.
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