The Fool in the Car

Ecclesiastes 7:9

What is it about an automobile that makes ordinary, reasonable people into morons? I could be walking down the street, holding doors for people and smiling, but put me behind the wheel of my car and, even though I’m not in any real hurry to get anywhere, I find irritation all around me.

Just yesterday, I was in a parking lot. Having identified a beautiful parking spot–it was in the shade in the heat of the afternoon–I prepared myself to wheel into it. But then this person was backing out of a nearby spot. She moved so slowly, her wheels barely turned so she had to back far out into the lane to make an exit. It turned out, though, that she wasn’t exiting. She was moving over from one perfectly good spot into another perfectly good spot. Finally, as I sat there grumbling, she eased to a stop, allowing me to grab my space quickly.

I should have had this verse in my mouth:

Don’t let your spirit rush to be angry,
for anger abides in the heart of fools.

Ecclesiastes 7:9

A Time for Every Irritation

Back in Ecclesiastes 3, we read about the “time for every season under heaven.” You might remember “a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together. I’d like to propose another list, a list of annoyances under heaven.

Annoyed by the old, annoyed by the young.
Annoyed by the strangers and who I’m among.
Annoyed by the fast, annoyed by the slow.
Annoyed by the high, annoyed by the low.
Annoyed by the rich, annoyed by the poor.
Annoyed by myself, but you even more.

What kind of a hit could the Byrds have made with that?

But honestly, what sort of benefit do we ever get from being angry? I have a few things from my past that have truly angered me and that stayed with me, things far more significant than that slow driver in the parking lot. One grudge I cherished for probably ten years, realizing that the person who had wronged me had long ago forgotten my existence. That anger did me absolutely zero good ever, from day one until the day that I determined to put it aside.

It’s not just me that feels this way, and it didn’t require the invention of the automobile for it to become a problem. James took up the matter in the New Testament:

My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.

James 1:19-20

Getting in Tune

Different people are inclined to anger in different ways. I’m not an explosive person. Perhaps you are. I do find a hundred little things to bother me. Perhaps you’re more patient with the small stuff. I’m not sure that this matters all that greatly.

Anger, in whatever form, is a non-productive emotion in almost every situation. Think about it. If Jesus could not be righteously angry when a bunch of buffoons arrested Him and started the path that led to Calvary, then what right do I have to anger? If Jesus could say, “Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing,” then how can I hold a grudge against someone? Anger isn’t what we have toward fools. It’s what makes us fools.

Today, I’m going to strive to avoid anger–in the car and beyond.

¡No Va!

They say that when the Chevy Nova was introduced, it didn’t sell as well as expected in Latin America. Why? The name means “doesn’t go.” The fact that this little legend is pretty much 100% fictional shouldn’t get in the way of a good story. But the real reason I’m thinking of it tonight is that my car, my cute, sporty, paid-for Audi A4 is in the no va category.

There’s one thing that’s good about having your clutch go out. Nobody without a tow truck is going to be able to steal your car.

Coming home from school Friday, I noticed that somebody at a stoplight was stinking the place up, burning something that shouldn’t be burned. I pushed the “recirculate” button on the heater to keep the outside air out and drove on home. As I exited the vehicle at home, I realized that the car that had been burning something was mine.

The next morning, as I tried to get the Grey Ghost in gear to drive to a shop, I heard the engine rev and got absolutely no motion. The nice folks at AAA sent a tow truck before our latest snowstorm hit. Right now, I’m waiting on a quote from the shop as to the repair cost. I’m hoping for $39.95, but I’m prepared for it to cost about as much as the car is worth. Yuck!

As I mull over this unpleasant development, it occurs to me that people can have bad transmissions as well. You know these people. Perhaps sometimes you are that person. I know I am now and again. They have an engine. You can hear it respond to the gas pedal. They have wheels that turn, but somewhere between those two, something isn’t making a connection. Somehow, despite a lot of horsepower, these people just don’t get anywhere. ¡No va!

As I drive this analogy into the ground, I realize that sometimes we should prefer being without a transmission. Think about it. If you’re pointed toward a cliff, then aren’t you better off with a clutch that doesn’t engage? So we have some people who are making great time headed in the wrong direction and others who don’t seem to get anywhere.

The ability to make our way down the road is a positive thing, but the necessity of steering and the wisdom to know how to get somewhere worth going cannot be ignored. Right now, I’m just getting ready to spend that $39.95 for the repair.