I composed a letter in my head when I was driving to work early yesterday morning. It went like this:
Dear Person Who Tailgates When The Roads Are Icy:
I am writing to let you know it doesn’t matter how close you get to me, you cannot make me drive faster than I feel safe doing. I checked the weather and the road conditions at home this morning and left early so I could adjust my driving. I can see you are in a hurry and are not happy I seem to be driving overly- cautiously. I am glad you feel so brave despite the conditions outside. You are hereby invited to exercise your bravado and pass me at any time.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
A few weeks ago while driving on the expressway, a car came up from behind, weaving in and out of traffic and passed on the left. When the driver got close to the cars in the left lane, he tried to weave to the right lane, which was moving slightly faster than 20 miles per hour. He lost control and plunged into a snowbank. Last winter, someone pulling out of a driveway tried to accelerate hard to get in front of me and ended up in the ditch across the street. In the end, rushing caused the accidents that likely made both of those drivers even later for wherever they were headed. Their carelessness also put other drivers at risk.
We are an impatient society. Nobody seems to want to get older, but we want everything to happen so fast. We often don’t think we should have to wait, or slow down or give consideration to the lives around us. I was in the Meijer parking lot one evening and a quite elderly woman came out of the store, leaning heavily on her cane and began to cross the parking lot followed by another elderly, but somewhat younger, woman a few feet behind. There was a teenage girl driving through the parking lot and she was speeding and had to stop quickly to avoid hitting the women. Her window was down and she accelerated just as quickly and drove around them, yelling out her window, “*%#$#%# old people! I hate $#*%&$* old people!”
I thought my heart might break.
How did we get to this place as a society? There is nothing, nothing, NOTHING more important in this life than our relationship with God and with other people. People matter. They matter whether they are family, or best friends, or complete strangers. They matter if they are lovely and young and facing a bright future, and they matter if they are old and worn out and feeling like life is over. They matter if they are angry, rude teenagers, and they matter if they are slow, shuffling and elderly. They matter if they are rich, and they matter if they are poor. They matter if they are dirty, and they matter if they are clean. They matter whether their political beliefs match mine or not. They matter whether I approve of their lifestyle or not. They matter in spite of their bad decisions or lousy attitudes or crazy hair.
What doesn’t matter is if I am in a hurry, or in a bad mood, or am in the middle of a really difficult situation. It doesn't matter if I don't feel like being patient with my fellow human beings, or if my situation is worse than theirs. Life is not a contest or a game of selection.
People are important. Their value is infinite and they are worthy of my love, kindness, and respect. In Philippians 2 I am told to value others better than myself. 1 Corinthians 13 is not just a nice idea, it is valuable instruction for humanity about the importance of love. I pray all the time that God will soften my heart and humble my spirit so I can reflect His love into the lives of everyone, yes EVERYONE, who crosses my path. It is not easy, but it is required.
Snowstorms disrupt life. So do severe sub-zero temperatures. I have to admit, I have spent a lot of time over the past twenty-something years cursing snow. I don’t like driving in it. It seems like every time there is a horrid storm, I absolutely HAVE to drive in it - usually for a long distance, too. I also worry about my kids. Not worry like oh-I-am-incapacitated-with-fear worry, but concern for their safety because I know they are young and might take chances. I don’t like to shiver, either. Hate it. Being cold is one of the worst feelings in the world to me. So I have had plenty of complaints about the snow.
But last evening I experienced a different side of it.
I went for a short walk to the gym at my apartment complex. It was dark, windy, and snowing like crazy. It was also so incredibly quiet. There was a stillness and hush in the air that caused me to pause and catch my breath - then stand and just soak in the silence. I stopped and opened my senses to absorb the natural world around me. So much snow. It glistened and sparkled like diamonds in the streetlights. An occasional car drove by on clouds of stillness. Everywhere was calm, peaceful white. Wanting to capture the moment forever, I snapped picture after picture. But none of them did justice to the magnificent display of weather all around me. Snow landing on my cheeks was soft and sharp at the same time . I marveled and gazed - my eyes eagerly taking in the magical beauty of the moment. Silent sheets of silvery-white were swirling around and adding to sparkling piles already over a foot deep. There was complete and total stillness as all the neighbors hibernated inside the warmth of their homes and I alone was experiencing life in that moment at that place. I sensed God’s presence filling me and delighting me with nature at it’s most natural.
Moments like that do not happen often in a lifetime. Times where the raw power and savage beauty of nature overcome the senses and still the mind are fleeting and rare. But that is what makes them special. God instills beauty in all of creation. Even the most annoying and dreaded weather in the world has a loveliness to it which we humans are hard-pressed to duplicate. I started thinking about the reasons I complain about the snow. For the most part, they are human issues brought about my lifestyle and personal preferences. It’s sobering to think how easily inconvenienced I am. It is even more sobering when I think about heaven and how utterly amazing and awesome it sounds - and then I consider the fact God left there and came here because I am that important to Him. He did that because you have a special place in His heart.
When I stop and take time to actually experience my surroundings and absorb the energy of life as it unfolds, I notice God has brought uncanny beauty to the world and quite often, I miss it. It’s there in the budding flowers opening their petals to drink in springtime rain. It’s there in the blazing sun shining over an impossibly green meadow in the summer’s heat. It’s there in the blazing colors of leaves falling on a blustery autumn day. It’s there in a snowstorm that shuts my world down in the middle of winter. It’s a reminder for me I am loved, quiet moments are important, I do not control the universe, and God is always close by.
I was talking to my daughter Melodie the other day about how the things we let consume our minds during our waking hours can also consume our minds when we sleep. Not only do they consume our minds - they can affect our behaviors and thought processes as well. I recently started watching a TV series on Netflix. There are many seasons of the program available and I had never even seen season one, so that’s where I began. If you have never done that, I don’t recommend it as a pastime. I enjoy good dramatic mysteries with unexpected plots and the show had a lot of those. It also had a lot of gruesome murder, anger, and swearing. I watched most of season one and started to feel somewhat addicted, but had other things to do (like go to bed and sleep), so I reluctantly turned it off. My dreams that night were disturbing and I woke up frequently, which was upsetting.
I also noticed the next few days I had a very short, hot, temper, which is unusual for me - It is out of character for me to become really angry really quickly and that bothered me deeply.
I found I was looking forward to watching more of the program, but at the same time I sensed it was not a healthy thing for me to do. Fortunately, I was too busy for a few days in a row and didn’t get back to it. In the meantime, I read Romans 8. Verses 5-8 struck me:
“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”
God spoke to me through those verses. I realized in that six-hour stint of TV watching, I was not taking a break from my busy schedule and enjoying mindless pleasure as I thought I was; instead, I was saturating my mind with things which were not Godly and my thought processes were affected greatly by doing that. The thing was - the pull was so strong - I really wanted to keep on watching until I had seen every program in every season of that show.
I think sometimes we fills our lives with so much stuff that is ungodly and unspiritual we reach the point where those things no longer consciously trouble us. We become so accustomed to evil its shock value diminishes, and that is not healthy for anyone, although it is prevalent in society. It is especially harmful if you are a person who wants to have your mind set on what the Spirit desires (Romans 8). It’s part of what it means to be living in this world but not being of this world. There are things I have to say “no” to; no matter how much I might want to do them or might want to make excuses for them. I don’t like the results I see in my life when I fill my mind with evil, yet sometimes I do it anyway. Such is the pull.