You know that sinking feeling you get when you look in your rear-view mirror and see a police car with lights flashing? And you heard the siren before you saw it? And then the next feeling is supposed to be relief because you pull to the side and the police car zooms on past?
Well, I got the first of those feelings without the second a couple of weeks ago, when I got my first speeding ticket in quite a few years.
No doubt I was guilty. 30 in a 20. I hadn’t noticed the change, thought I was keeping up with traffic; you know the drill.
So I pulled over, put the car in Park, put my hands on the steering wheel, and waited.
We had a fine conversation. I kept hoping that I might be let off with a warning. Might have, except it was in a school zone. I guess I want no tolerance in a school zone. Maybe even more than I want a citation.
I can’t say I have been stopped a lot of times. I also can’t say that I have always thought that stopping me and writing me a citation was really the best thing to do. So, I rolled a stop sign, but there was NO ONE else on the road! Oh, yeah, except that parked police car down the street….
For all the times I’ve been stopped, maybe ten over the 35+ years I have been driving, I have always been treated well.
Judging from ONLY my own experience, I cannot make any sense of the challenges our society currently faces over policing.
On the other hand, there are too many stories, and too many incidents, for me to believe that there is not a problem.
But I am absolutely convinced of this: the problem is not the police, and the problem is not one particular race or class of people. The problem is us; the problem is in and with all of us, and until we can all admit that, I do not expect the problem will get any better.
And I don’t know anyone who wants things to keep going like they are. I don’t believe there is anyone who wants things to keep going like they are. But when, and how, are we going to get past the fear and hashtags that frame all of this?
Who is willing to stop vilifying the other, WHOEVER the “other” might be?
I am going to try. Wouldn’t you agree it is worth a try?
If it is worth a try, would you also agree that it has to start with ME trying, and YOU trying, not waiting around for THEM to try?
That’s from my recent brush with the Law. May your next brush with the law be at least as smooth as mine.
A good friend of mine suggested that “the next time I go to church I am going to wear a t-shirt that says, ‘Please don’t ask how I’m doing.”
I sympathize. At the same time, “how are you” is near the top of the queue of phrases that come out of my mouth.
In July, as part of our Summer Book Club, we read Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club. In it, Schwalbe tells how he learned that sometimes a more appropriate question to begin with is “Do you want me to ask you how you are doing?”
Sure, this makes perfect sense when, like Schwalbe, you are attempting to be considerate to someone you know is slowly dying of terminal cancer. But what about someone suffering from something that isn’t so obvious? You can’t know. But most of us care enough that we don’t intend something like “how are you doing?” to be part of launching someone deeper into the depths.
So, I am going to work on this. I will practice NOT asking “how are you doing?” as a matter of small talk. I will practice being ready and willing to listen, though, to any friend who needs to be able to speak whatever is on their mind or heart.
And also ready and willing not to listen if they really aren’t ready to talk about it right now.
Don’t let them rule you, either!
Part of John Wesley’s genius, as the founder of the Methodist Movement, was the way he organized to make disciples. He established small groups everywhere he went. When these small groups met, they would go through a list of questions at each meeting. The questions were designed to guide the group members into a deeper walk with God.
Here is the twelfth question:
12. Do I disobey God in anything
Ouch. This one gets personal. At least that’s the initial feeling.
But let’s be real here: almost all of us immediately answer, “yes,” right? Then we go on to think, “well, of course I disobey God. I’m a sinner!” We may even wonder why this question is asked at all.
Which, I expect, is the reason it is asked at number 12 rather than number 1.
Do I disobey God in anything? While this is, structurally, a “yes” or “no” question, I do not believe we ought to settle on that answer. Remember, this list of questions was constructed for use in small groups of people who were committed to learning to follow Jesus better day by day, and more than just learning how, to actually following Jesus better day by day.
Which means that, even if your answer to the question, “Do I disobey God in anything?” is always “yes,” it ought to be different things as you move through your life.
In the context of the small group meeting, then, I believe this question was rarely left as a “yes” or “no” question. I believe it would typically engender further conversation. I believe individuals would feel encouraged to share a specific way or two they feel they disobey God.
So, there you are: you are in a small group of people with whom you share a commitment to growing as a disciple of Jesus, and you have admitted a way in which you disobey God. The next step seems almost as straightforward – you strategize how to stop that particular disobedience.