Saturday, November 24, 2012

Every Day, Driving a Gauntlet

I was driving to one of the actual grocery stores here in town recently. (That means aisles, shopping carts or baskets, meat counter, bakery, refrigerator and frozen section - even Kellogg's Special K, sometimes... It's not Walmart or Winn Dixie, but "I ain't complainin'!") I don't often navigate this section of town, at least not this year, and there are a few trickier round-abouts... or rotaries... or round points, depending where you are from... In fact, I thought I'd run over a guy on a bike at one of them just a few months ago. Now, nervousness tags along each time I try and merge into the traffic fray in that place.

That morning, after successfully merging and driving up the hill amid the bikes, motorcycles, large and small vehicles as well as pedestrian and animal traffic, a Land Cruiser goes flying around me, crosses the double yellow line, weaves through thankfully minimal head on traffic, swings wide again while passing a small, blue car in front of me before finally jerking mostly back into the correct line of traffic and abruptly halting due to circulation paused by a red light enforced by a traffic cop down the road... Then, that last, little blue car passed drives right up on to the curb, goes back around the Land Cruiser on the right, sorta settles back into line while still partially resting on the curb... and they both wait for the signal to change, the police to assent and traffic to resume. At that point, the Land Cruiser, seemingly more calm, simply slips back into line behind the smaller blue compact and everyone drives down the road, more or less normally... at least until I turned off to pull into the grocery store parking lot.

It really was a pretty typical thing to see driving around in this town. People ignore the double yellow line, if there is one. Lights are suggestions and stop signs totally optional unless a policeman is standing nearby. Whoever honks first and loudest has the right of way, even if you have no idea where they are coming from when you hear the honk. I'm vividly aware that each time I climb into a vehicle, I'm risking my life and limb, as well as that of my passengers and anyone who might be on the road at the same time. The nightmare-hued possibilities display in my mind every time I venture into traffic. It is easy to have a cynical, negative attitude and my first reaction to that particular vehicular display on that day was neither kind nor gentle - neither in my mind nor with the words that  almost instinctively spurted from mouth. Thankfully, it was just me out and about in the car that day.

My initial reaction? 

"Stupid, selfish, aggressive driver!" (paraphrased...) 

Clearly the guy figured that as a very important person, his plans took precedence over all other considerations and the 3 seconds of time he might have gained through his reckless driving obviously justified the risk of life and limb - his own as well as others. I've always said that drivers in a developing country (particularly where any consequence for violating the theoretical traffic laws is totally haphazard and undoubtedly random) demonstrates man's self-centered, sinful, me-first ugliness minus the tethering influence of the Holy Spirit more vividly that just about anything else... except, perhaps, toddlers fighting.

As I'm muttering under my breath, trying to decide if I'm going to ask the Lord to forgive my well-justified-in-my-eyes verbal outburst and uncharitable thoughts, the still small voice of God snuck a word in edgewise. He asked me:  "Are you really so sure of the motivations behind such driving?" 

Why did I consider myself a righteous judge, jury and executioner?

Perhaps the two cars were actually traveling together - the first leading the second - desperate to catch up to his guide? Perhaps someone was ill and they were headed to the clinic up the road? What if they'd been commandeered as temporary ambulances and were heading for an emergency room? A whole realm of other possibilities existed... things are neither always as they appear, nor as I assume them to be.

Only the Lord is able to see, knows and is qualified to rightly judge actions as well as the intents of the heart.

That thought provoked more thinking. 

How often do I, a proclaimed Christ-follower - do something similar as I judge the actions and motivations of fellow Christians as well as others... even of God. I assume the worst instead of trusting the best? Even if I don't come right out and bluntly... or even tactfully... say so, I communicate my pronouncement of guilty via body language, facial expression, disgusted glances, heavy sighs... 

It never helps.

God encourages us to be wise as serpents yet innocent as doves. I wonder if He said that for times like this? 


Can we successfully drive the gauntlet, 
recognizing precarious situations around us and avoiding them... 
without judging the intent or the spirituality 
of those somehow implicated or involved in those circumstances? 

How do you achieve this balance?


  1. I'm not sure how to achieve a balance, but God has been speaking to me this year on the subject of JUDGING. It's so easy to do. Thanks for this good word.

    And I do sympathize with you about risking your life each time you drive. We don't even have stop signs here, and drivers are very aggressive.I pray often in the car!

    1. i think what drives me the craziest is that some follow the rules and some don't, and there is no way to truly drive defensively. my colleague was in an accident on thurs - thankfully the Lord protected and what looked at first to be quite serious will all heal with time.

      and then, when i go back to the states and have to drive on a freeway there - oh. my. word! all of those cars, moving at those speeds, in such close proximity - it terrifies me until i get over the culture shock that most drivers do follow the rules most of the time.

      thanks for your kind words - i'm glad these words encouraged you...

  2. We used to call the road to our old house "the gauntlet"... It really felt like an obstacle course: past the bar/pool hall where there were always drunk idlers, get stuck behind a bus and watch others performing crazy manuevers to pass it, drive with your hand on the horn to warn the speeding cars you couldn't see before you turned in front of them on a hill, dodge chickens and herds of cows in the road, wait for the trucks hauling sugar cane to stop blocking the road... Whew! It seemed like a major achievement just to arrive home.

    A few weeks ago, I realized that I was getting really angry after driving to my son's school to pick him up. I would always arrive at my husband's office to pick him up mad at all of Costa Rica... just because of the way people were driving. I have to just take a deep breath, pray, and see it all as an adventure!

    1. i hear tell that s/latin american drivers are even wilder than what we see here. our observation is that everyone follows 2 rules: 1) the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, 2) the only time africans are EVER in a hurry is behind the wheel of a vehicle!

      and driving/pickng up our kids, especially when they attended a national school instead of the MK one, was ALWAYS one of the most stressful moments of any day. i totally understand. we figure we're best going slow and methodically - thus minimizing (hopefully) and giving more time to avoid (again, hopefully) those inevitable accidents so that they really are nothing more than fender benders.

    2. Ah, thanks for your kind words! It's good to know that I'm not alone in the craziness of the school pick-ups!

  3. very, very good. thank you for the essay. it was something I needed to be reminded of!

    joy in nepal