Flip the bird


It was a weekday morning a few month ago and I had dropped off my two oldest at their high school.  My youngest and I had just left the high school on our way to drop her off at the elementary school.  The intersection by the high school is very busy in the morning and when school lets out in the afternoon.  You come to a T in the road.  In front of you is a lake.  To the left of you is a ton of high school children and their parent’s turning right to get to the school.  Or an occasional car driving straight.  To the left are a ton of high school children and parent’s waiting to turn left  to get to school and the occasional car going straight.  I came to the stop sign facing the lake and waited to turn left.  I was not distracted, had both hands on the wheel and had been watching traffic coming from both sides.  I waited until I thought I knew there were no cars going straight (on the left) and only cars waiting to turn left (on the right).  I thought it was safe.  I pulled out and made my turn to the left when I saw the blue sedan coming straight at us. The man driving had eyes the size of saucers and he jerked his wheel to the right to narrowly escape t-boning my vehicle right where my daughter was sitting behind me.  I looked in my rearview mirror as he was driving back on to the road.  Everyone was fine and safe.

However, the event rattled me.  I literally was almost sick the entire day.  Replaying the events. Wondering if he was emotionally okay.  Wondering if he was mad at me.  Wondering if I had done something wrong.  I even drove back after dropping my youngest at school to make sure he hadn’t had a heart attack in his car after he drove off.

But this was an accident.  I didn’t want to die that day.  I didn’t want my daughter to die.  I didn’t want a perfect stranger to die.  I was not distracted.  I was focused on the road, the traffic…and still, I made a mistake.  It was my fault, but a mistake.  To this day, if I have to go to their high school in the morning I drive the other direction and go the long way home in order to eliminate ever having to see that car or driver again – I’m still that shook up over it.

This morning at church, Pastor Chris was going over the story in Luke chapter 4 where Jesus is going back to his home town of Nazareth.  The people in the town were furious when he came and basically mobbed him to throw him over a cliff.  All because he was essentially telling them that their God loved ALL people.  Not just those that knew Jesus or those that were the same religion.  The sermon hit me close today.  This is what I wrote in my bible:

“How big is my God?  Our God loves ALL people:  races, religions, etc.  He loves the people we feel are unlovable.  Our God is THAT big!!  He is an AWESOME God!!  He wants me to open my heart and my arms bigger.  To love those that make it hard for me to love.  I need to open myself up and love them as Jesus and God love them.  It may be scary but it’s what he wants from me.”

Fast forward a few hours.  It’s super bowl Sunday at 4:00pm.  I go to the kitchen to start our appetizer extravaganza and realize that our wings are freezer burned.  I had to run over to my parents and put out their garbage cans for them so I decided I would go to the grocery store on my way home and pick up some fresh chicken.  I head out.

I live in a small city.  We don’t all know each other, but it’s quiet, limited traffic, and wooded.  There are lots of hills and curves in the road.  There are no sidewalks so walkers and runners have to share the road with the cars.  The speed limit is 30 MPH.  Really it’s pretty difficult in most areas to drive faster than 30 MPH because of the twists and turns in the road.  But of course that doesn’t stop people from trying.

I turned onto the main road and started to feel a bit like I was speeding.  I look down at my speedometer and see that it’s 38 MPH so I apply my brake and slow down.  I look and see I’m down to 32.  Both of my hands are at 11 and 2, I’m looking straight at the road….no distractions.  I come around a curve and suddenly see a jogger coming at me.  With the snow on the side, he is using a majority of my lane.  As soon as I see him I swerve away from him with both hands still on the wheel.  I look over at him and he flips me the bird.  At this point I’m wondering what I did wrong, but realize I probably cut it short in swerving away from him.  I then look in my rearview mirror to see that he has now turned around in the middle of the road and is angrily flipping me more birds.

My gut now feels just as it did when I pulled out in front of that car a few months ago.  I begin to rapidly replay the events in my head.  What would have happened if I had been on my phone?  What would have happened if I had looked at my watch because of a text?  What if I really had done something wrong I was unaware of, and the man took my license down and was going to call the police?  I felt sick.  I got to my parents, put the garbage out and sat in their driveway thinking.  NO.  NOT AGAIN!  I will not feel like I am a terrible person for making a mistake.  I did not go out that afternoon trying to kill myself or an unknown neighbor.  Then I thought about Pastor Chris’ sermon.  About loving those that make it hard to love.  Being so angry at me for a mistake I made, made it difficult for me to love the runner.  But on the flip side he felt as though I almost hit him so I made it difficult for him to love me.   I was sick with worry and I was sure that he was sick with anger and fear.

I didn’t want to spend the next month with this pit in my stomach.  And I didn’t have an option to never drive that road in hopes that I wouldn’t see this man again.  Instead I said a little prayer that if it were the right thing to do, I wanted the man to still be running, so I could talk with him.  I opted not to go to the grocery store for food, but instead go back in search of this man…for good.

I was almost home when I saw him coming up the hill towards me.  I was terrified, but knew it was what I needed to do.  I swerved a little away from him and came to a stop.  I opened my window and waited for him to approach the car.  He pulled out his ear buds and hung his arms on the windowsill of the passenger side of the car.  I asked him if he was the one running towards my car before.  He said yes.  I explained that I wasn’t sure what had happened, but I had not been distracted, had both hands on the wheel and that it looked like I had made him very angry.  He said that he was very angry and that he felt I was driving way too fast.  I said that I had looked at my speed and was only going 32 MPH and was sorry.  I told him that I lived in the neighborhood and didn’t want him to think badly of me.  He said that he really felt I was going fast but that he should not have reacted that way at all and he was sorry.  I said that I had come back to find him just to make sure that everything was okay.  He shook my hand and said it was big of me to come back and that he shouldn’t have acted that way.  I told him no please not to worry.  That he was a runner and it was okay to be upset.  We thanked each other as a car came up behind me and we had to end our conversation.

I left knowing that we both realized that we had reacted negatively towards each other – we now saw each others sides – and we were able to shake hands and move on.  That sick feeling was almost immediately gone and I knew that I had done the right thing.  I knew today what Jesus wanted from me.  I know that sometimes Jesus wants me to do things that terrify me but are for good.  That the more good we focus on or search for, the more good will come.  We must only be willing to LOVE like Jesus wants us to love.

Thank you Pastor Chris!

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