ecently, I read about a woman who was cursed out in the Starbucks drive-through. She and another driver had pulled into line at the same time, unsure who should go next. Apparently, the other driver assumed this woman had tried to cut her off, and started yelling expletives at her as she pulled forward.
Rather than honking, yelling back, or praying God would smite the other driver, the woman tried to buy the offender’s coffee in hopes of brightening her day. This experience was especially poignant because the author of this story had been praying to see people as God sees them— His children who may be tired, frustrated, and even desperate for some coffee-and to respond with love.
I like this story. I shared it on social media. It made me feel good…for a minute. Then I felt convicted.
The day before reading the article, I found myself in nearly the same situation. I was in line to pick up my kindergartner from school. The traffic situation was a mess, as usual. I had arrived at school 40 minutes early just to get in the line, yet I was still nowhere near the front. When I finally got close enough to pull into the parking lot, another woman was ready to pull in from the adjoining cross street. She looked like me—a young mom in a minivan, her children’s name cards resting on the dash to identify which students go to her car. She even had a pink card-the color for kindergartners-and I wondered if our kids might be friends. Any other day, perhaps we mom would be friends…but not that day.
Common traffic laws dictate that the car turning right (me) has the right-of-way, while cars turning left (her) must wait until either traffic clears or a compassionate right-turning driver decides to wave them on. Usually I am the compassionate driver because, while the cross-street drivers have probably been waiting 10 minutes compared to my 40, I recognize that one or two cars hardly makes a difference as to when I see my kid.
However, when I saw her try to rush her red van ahead of me—even as I pulled forward to indicate I was proceeding with my rightful place in line—I thought, How rude! I’m not going to let her snatch up my spot! I’ve been in this line for almost an hour!
When she did not back down, I gave a little honk—not a long, loud honk that often accompanies unfavorable hand gestures—just a quick “beep” to let her know I was there.
Immediately the other driver threw her arms up in the air and mouthed an exaggerated “Take turns!” Feeling vindicated as I moved into position, I raised my eyebrows, shook my head no, and looked away.
I know the rules, here, lady! I thought. I have the right-of-way! Back off! The car behind me, probably a kind person like the author of the Starbucks story, saw the woman’s frustration and waved her on. As the red van pulled up behind me, I began to worry. I prayed, “God, please don’t let that woman’s child be in my daughter’s class. I don’t want to face her at the Christmas party!”
A few years ago, I was moved by a song that asks God to open our eyes to things unseen. I began making that my prayer, asking God to allow me to see others through His eyes. Miraculously, He
has answered that prayer many times, impacting how I view rude cashiers at the grocery store . . . troubled teens in my youth group . . . and exotic dancers I meet through a local outreach ministry.
In them, I see myself before Christ intervened: broken, insecure, frustrated, and depressed. I also see the people God created them to be—healed, whole, peaceful, secure in Christ, joyful, and fulfilled. I thank God for His blessings every day.
However, when I went through that car line, I chose to see with my flesh a rude, self-righteous, impatient mom who could not wait for a few more cars that had earned their place in line by arriving long before school let out!
Looking back on the situation with spiritual eyes, I missed seeing the precious child of God who was driving that red van. Maybe there was a screaming baby in the backseat making that mom feel like every second counted to get this kid back home to sleep.
Flashback to my own battle with postpartum depression: If a honk—even one like my short little “beep” to establish my presence—upset my colicky baby, I would be ready to scream and cry too. Maybe that’s one reason Jesus taught us to love our neighbors. To quote a popular mantra, “Everyone is fighting a hard battle.”
Backgrounds and Battles
Sometimes I wonder about the backgrounds and battles of the people Jesus encountered in the New Testament. Consider Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector from Jericho featured in Luke 19:1-10. Zacchaeus was wealthy, held a prominent position with the Roman government, and probably looked like he had it all together. Sure, common people knew him as “a notorious sinner” (v. 7 NLT), but he probably brushed off those judgments as others envying his wealth or status; or perhaps he thought they were bullies who picked on his small stature.
I imagine him strutting through Jericho as if to prove his confidence and security. But deep down, something troubled Zacchaeus. He was so dismayed that when Jesus passed through town, he climbed a sycamore-fig tree just to get a peek. When Jesus called to him, he scampered down the tree and joyfully welcomed Jesus into his home.
Joyful Zacchaeus promised to give his wealth to the poor and repay with interest those he had cheated. Jesus responded by validating him as a “true son of Abraham” (v. 9 NLT)—an identity that seemed lost through Zacchaeus’ extortion and disobedience to God’s law. Salvation came
to this home because Jesus saw through Zacchaeus’ façade to his broken spirit, and loved him right where he was.
Honestly, I don’t think Zacchaeus planned to reconcile with God and others when
he climbed that tree earlier in the day. Maybe he just wanted to see if anything seemed different about this Jesus; then he could approach Him later, when no one was looking, like Nicodemus did (John 3:1-21). However, when Jesus took the time to see Zacchaeus with divine eyes, it changed Zacchaeus’ life.
A Different World
How would our world be different if we viewed all our neighbors through God’s eyes rather than our flesh? The rude mom who cuts you off in the kindergarten pickup line is still a beloved child of the King, as are frazzled patrons who shout expletives in a drive-through for no good reason. The love of Christ is life-changing; we should never forfeit an opportunity to share it with others.
My prayer from the other day has changed: I do hope that mom’s child is in the same class as my daughter, and I hope to run into her again someday. She needs to hear about the hope I have . . . and an apology for my traffic attitude is probably a good place to start.