My daughter and I were having a lovely chat in the car, until I heard yelling from behind me. Our windows were rolled up, but I could hear a man screaming. When I looked in my rear-view there was a distinguished looking man, probably in his 50s, jabbing his finger out his window and cursing the driver in the truck next to him. This went on for a full mile, until the truck turned off.
It was an assault.
I think this man is horrible, until I remember the other day when I got caught in traffic. Another driver had to wait for me to turn out of his lane before he could get through the light, but he grew impatient and scowled at me while he honked his horn for me to move.
So I threw up my hands in impatience and scowled back at him, saying with body language, Well, what do you want me to do? I’m trapped!
I immediately felt remorse and looked at my daughter (who, by the way, is the most gracious, self-controlled person on the planet) and said, Isn’t it great to respond to a guy’s childish impatience by acting childishly impatient yourself?
Yesterday I went to check the mail, and there was a piece of mail in my box that belonged to the neighbor. This happens once every several weeks, and we walk over and exchange mail with each other. Yesterday I took mail across the street, handed it to the girl who opened the door, and she rolled her eyes with impatience, complaining about how often this happens.
Why do we do that? Why do we get frustrated and impatient in 0.001 of a second?
Maybe you’re a saint with a halo, and you feel perfectly calm and respond always with grace, regardless of the annoying circumstance. But then there are the rest of us…
Paul talks about my old self, the person I was before I called Jesus Lord, and he says, “In your anger do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26 NIV)
My old self wants to roll down the window, poke my finger out, and yell at the driver who cut me off.
My old self wants to give the man who honked at me a piece of my mind.
My old self wants to sigh in exasperation and complain to the neighbor about the mail lady who mixes up our letters on occasion.
Paul gives two instructions:
- Put off the old self. (Which, after shopping for clothes this week, I assume means seeing how disgusting and ill-fitting the old self looks in the mirror and ripping it off your body as quickly as possible.) See Ephesians 4:22.
- Think with a different attitude in frustrating situations. Think before body language. Think before eye roll. Think before finger wagging out the window. Think before nasty words. Think. Think. Think. Think about the sacrifice of Christ and grace and serving one another in love. See Ephesians 4:23.
Paul tells Timothy (3:1-2 NIV) that in the last days there will be terrible times. People will be abusive, unforgiving, without self-control, brutal, and treacherous. These are the people who are driving cars all around you. These are the neighbors who are getting your mail. These are the people in line at the grocery store and at the DMV.
Will we join the world in its abusive response to life, or will we turn to our fellow man with a shockingly rare display of calmness, patience, self-control, love, and tenderness?
Lord, help us put on that new self in a hurry.