Recently, it rained in Abilene, which means it flooded in Abilene. The picture above is what I saw out of my car window, waiting out front of my two younger children’s school. The front of the school was so flooded, it looked like a lake. There was no sidewalk for the kids to walk on, mud was everywhere the water wasn’t. This required a bit of an adjustment in driving, parking, picking up kids, and patience.
As you can see, cars were every which way, creating multiple “lanes” and really just pissing me off. I mean, really?!? Are you more important than everyone else that you have to drive on the other side of the road? Ugh! In fact, I was so mad that I spent the next week ranting (like a lunatic!) about it. Anytime someone would bring it up, I felt like they were giving me permission to talk about how incredibly stupid and selfish these people were…
So, many of you know that I am something of a “firecracker.” This means, I’m unlikely to hold back on telling people how I feel and what I think. While that has served me well, most of my life; it has also had its downfalls. Take this picture for example. My ranting and raving about something I can’t control has only widened an already-apparent gap between myself and my neighbors. I had already started to feel a bit convicted about it by day 3, but then I started reading some books and went to an annual religious conference. By then, I became overwhelmed with conviction from several sources. Here is an example:
An Altar in the World was the second Barbara Brown Taylor book I read. In it, I was introduced to the idea of worship (towards God) as something that is done as we walk along our path. While this may seem elementary to you, this is not something that is always promoted in many religious circles. In fact, there are many religions that believe that the human part of us is so evil, we must deny it every chance we can (which we can’t, because we’re human, so we’re doomed!). BBT suggests that we can be connected to the Creator and the Creation by just being aware. Two of the chapters are written, specifically, about how we interact with humans. And this is where my conviction received its first upgrade.
First, if I cannot appreciate the skin I’m in, I usually find it harder to appreciate others’ skin. This could relate to race/ethnicity; but it goes beyond that. Understanding, as BBT states, how our bodies shape our worldview and vice verse, helps us have compassion for others-even when we don’t believe the same way they do. Simply put, if we can learn to respect ourselves, we can learn to respect others.
In the other chapter, BBT writes about how to engage with other humans. She says it like this (pg.94): “As its most basic level, the everyday practice of being with other people is the practice of loving the neighbor as the self. More intricately, it is the practice of coming face-to-face with another human being, preferably someone different enough to qualify as a capital “O” Other-and at least entertaining the possibility that this is one of faces of God.” Yes. In fact, BBT goes on to use the example of people in customer service jobs, who get ignored at best and chewed out, at worst. We all crave to be seen.
So how does this inform the anger I felt over the craziness that ensued during last week’s rainfall? BBT says it best (pg.102): “What we have most in common is not religion but humanity” (emphasis mine). When we really look at each other, we see God’s babes, just as we are God’s babes. And that, friends, is why I shouldn’t get angry about how others behave. I can’t change anything that way. As a human, I may be disappointed or frustrated. But, angry? No. That is not the way we should treat one another. So, I confess my jerk-ness and ask that y’all keep me accountable.