My daughters have always made fun of my driving. They say I drive like an old man, slow and careful. I believe there are advantages to driving like an old man. (No, I don’t get a senior discount at Kragen Auto Parts.) One advantage came into focus after my eldest daughter had our first grandchild. Suddenly, both my daughters realized that I am by far the safest driver in the entire family. They became quite vociferous about the aggressive and nerve-wracking driving habits of other adults in the family. In short, if other family members didn’t repent and change their driving habits, grandpa Grady would be the only one allowed to transport the grandchildren by auto. (Without even trying, I have achieved most-favored-grandparent status . . . unfathomable!)
I believe one of the primary sources of bad driving is the spillover of our frenetic society and its selfishness into our driving ecosystem. There is enough anonymity on the highway to allow us to view other drivers as idiots and jerks. In a way, it’s like posting anonymous snarky comments on internet articles. Even though I drive like an old man, I occasionally get irritated at the driving faux pas of others. But when I drive to church and someone I recognize from the congregation cuts me off or tail gates, I bestow grace and let it go. Not so much when I’m out on the open road vying for the best place in traffic among pagans and strangers. (My hypocrisy remains.)
I have often observed drivers, including Christians, cuss out other drivers for traffic blunders then turn around and make the exact same mistake as the person they cussed out a few minutes earlier. Do as I want not as I do, right? Hypocrisy happens with greater frequency when grace is not extended by the person wronged. (Some call it karma . . . but not me.) And by the way, given the abysmal state of driving etiquette in America, it is not a good idea to put Christian bumper stickers and symbols on our cars (unless we drive like Saint Ignatius behind the wheel).
Another explanation for bad driving is the fact that new drivers get training on the mechanics of driving, laws of the road, and basic courtesy. But a deep sense of courtesy can’t be effectively taught in driver’s education courses because it is a character trait a person has been raised with, or not. Driving courtesy is related to the Biblical imperative that we think of others more highly than we think of ourselves . . . even on the road. Still, it’s hard not to judge others harshly and place them below us.
Recently, I read the most intelligent and insightful observation about our flawed methodology when it comes to judging. I wish I could recall the author’s name, but here is the observation: “We judge others based on their actions, we judge ourselves based on our motives.” I’m just sayin.’
Perhaps we evangelicals have developed an unwholesome tendency to overuse God and Satan to avoid our personal accountability. For instance, if I run up the balance on my credit card and take out huge home equity loans to live large, do I then have license to say God orchestrated my financial Armageddon to accomplish a higher spiritual purpose? I am aware of Romans 8:28 and the fact that God can use all situations to the good of those who love him. I get it. On the other hand, there are verses in the Bible that say we are accountable for our actions. See Galatians 6:5.
Here’s the thing: We can read stories in the Bible like Job and assume that God or Satan are behind nearly all the pleasant and unpleasant situations and outcomes in our life. That’s a mistake because it makes it too easy to grant self-absolution for our actions, or inaction. Sure, there will be times when God turns bad events into positive outcomes in our lives. There will be times when the enemy brings hardship and pain into our lives. But are we mere puppets at the complete mercy of good and malevolent forces? If so, why do we have the awesome power of choice at our disposal?
Developing a default setting where we automatically pass off the fruit of our risky actions or inaction to God to use in his holy work doesn’t improve our inner spiritual health. It can be framed to sound lofty and spiritual, but it isn’t. You see, sometimes we dig ourselves into a hole with nobody helping us shovel the dirt. God might help us get out of the hole, or he might let us scratch and claw our own way out. Either way, wisdom is found in first admitting our responsibility for digging the hole. I’m just sayin’.