What To Do Before You Spew

"The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out." Proverbs 17:14

Proverbs is so versatile and timeless. Who knew that it contained wise words for defensive driving. Wouldn't we all be better Christians if we had to walk everywhere we went? The vehicle of choice has changed, but road rage has been around a long time.

The City of Houston taught me the real meaning of road rage. I had grown up in New York and had cut my teeth on some of the toughest traffic and roughest road hogs the world could produce. I was not a novice at protecting my turf when I arrived in Houston in 1980. It was the epicenter of "The Oil Patch, the peak of the oil boom and the glory days of "Luv Ya Blue." It didn't take me long to get into the spirit of things. Traffic was unbelievable. Houston had the same number of freeway miles as San Antonio, and four times the population. You do the math. Rats in a maze of jams and detours does not describe it fully. Everyone was from a small town, and this driving experience was new to them, and they hated it. Signs marked "Yield" or "Merge" were ignored by them as much as their blinkers when changing lanes. Dana and I lived 11 miles from the church we were serving, and my morning and evening commute would total approximately four hours a day. This workout twice a day developed 21 ulcers in less than three years. Good times. Good times.

One Saturday morning, when traffic was relatively light, I took off to perform a 10 AM wedding at the church. The night before, I had returned from a two week preaching trip to Japan, Hong Kong, and Hawaii. Jet lag was enormous, and all I wanted to do was get to the church, grab my notes, tie the knot and get back home to sleep it off. Then it happened. The guy in front of me slammed on his brakes, and began a 9 mile amateur version of "Mad Max." I tried to exit, and he would block me. I would get off the freeway and he would follow me. He would slow down and I would pass him. He would try to cut me off and run me into the concrete barricades. He was relentless and ruthless and his truck was twice the size of my car. The gun rack in his pick up was missing a shotgun. It was in his lap, and he was pointing it at me. God Bless America! I caught a glimpse of his face, and it was a hideous contortion of demonic features. I am not ashamed to say that it scared me then, and the memory of this experience chills me to my core even today.

Proverbs 17:14 probably saved my life that day. He finally drove off with a "win" under his belt and I arrived at the church feeling like a James Bond martini...shaken but not stirred. I have used this verse on more than one occasion to avoid letting myself get suckered into a fight on the highway that can escalate from a minor mishap to mass murder. I wish I was better at using every place I go.

Clebe McClary, Marine hero and evangelist, told me that he and his wife have a code word for cutting off an argument that can develop into to road rage IN the car. It is F.I.D.O., and it means Forget It Drive On. It has become their way of stopping the rising temperature in the vehicle. When they have a disagreement over directions or any other subject that comes up, either one is free to use it as a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. Thanks Clebe, this has nipped in the bud the thorny vines of conflict that can choke the life out of a loving relationship.

Warning: When you are full of yourself, this spewing of resentment will jet out like a geyser when anyone punctures the smooth, thin veneer of your personal preferences or right of way.

"So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out." It is hard to abandon a quarrel when you are hiring lawyers, enlisting eyewitnesses and character references to prove your case before you head out the door each day. Perhaps this is honorable preparation for the trial of a life time, but most of us are not challenged by great trials as much as tedious, life-sucking tests that come our way through the relentless grind of daily life. When you wake up in the morning, remind yourself that the rest of the world is not getting up hoping you have a great day. There are huge numbers of crazy people getting dressed, into their cars and on their way to celebrate, "What's In It for ME Day." Don't be surprised if you eat their bumper on the way to work, or find them inflating balloons for an office party when you get there.

So, how does Proverbs 17: 14 help us? It reminds us that there is honor in choosing our battles, and not allowing someone to thrust their insanity upon us. It points out the inevitability of strife reaching flood stage in our lives, unless we are willing to prepare ourselves to resist the urge to take it to the next level. Abandoning the quarrel with another person is easier if you have settled the dust balls of resentment that can slowly collect under the bed of an unexamined heart.

Martin Luther said, " You cannot stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building nests in your hair."

Luther understood how easy it was or people to get in our heads. Our responsibility is to show their toxic behavior the exit before we react to it with a vengeance that belongs only to God. This is best done by what I call "Proactive Praying." Before you head out the door pray for those who will cross your path that day. Ask God to give you grace to respond rather than react. You can only die on one cross so choose it carefully. Does every traffic blunder and snide remark require a conquest over the offender that leaves them crushed at your feet? This is going to be a long day if you let other people set the agenda for you. They are messed up!

"If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, but leave room for the wrath of God...Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:18-21

Pray, proactively, before you leave the house today. Invite Jesus to carpool with you on the way to work, school or church. When another person needs to merge into your lane, ask Jesus if you should. Let God's grace empower you to let them in. You will be surprised at how many friends you can make on the road. If you are abused by another driver or person today, (and you will be) invest in them. Pray for them. It is harder to hate someone you pray for. Not impossible, it is just harder. See you on the road. I will be the one without my blinker on.