I have just had an interesting encounter with some more of our <ahem> delightful new neighbours. A woman banged on our front door at half past ten at night and loudly demanded that I move my car, “Because it’s blocking the road and no one can get past!”
I was very puzzled by this. When I had parked my car, my dad, who is visiting, dropped the children off from his car and drove straight past me. And his is a big car, so there was definitely room. I walked outside and saw that no, my car remained as it had been, but some great lummocking car had parked right beside mine on the opposite side, effectively blocking the street.
Shouty Lady demanded I move my car. I said I had parked my car before the other one. How long had I lived on the street, she asked, “because everyone knows you don’t park there – it’s illegal!” (indicating my car). I replied, calmly but firmly, that how long I had lived there didn’t matter. I had parked first. I had not parked illegally. Shouty Lady threatened to call the police. I said, still calm but firm, ok, call the police then.
Then another lady, who is the only neighbour to have actually spoken to us since we arrived, came over to me. I don’t know if she was there all along. She spoke gently to Shouty Lady in my defence saying it wasn’t my fault, that the other person had parked wrongly. Shouty Lady continued to threaten to call the police. Kind Lady looked worried, and walked over to knock on another front door, saying to me, “It’s just… they’re not answering.”
“I didn’t park blocking the road.” I said, “I wouldn’t do that.”
“I know you wouldn’t.” Kind Lady said to me.
Grateful for this much, and desiring to stop Shouty Lady from being more and more Shouty, I agreed to move my car. I fetched my keys and pulled away. Shouty Lady stopped threatening to call the police, got into her car and pulled away. As it is a one-way street, at the end I turned right so I could double back on myself. Shouty Lady turned left.
By the time I got back to our street, there was nowhere left to park. My anxious husband was stood outside waiting. I wound down the window and said crossly, “I’ve moved out the way, and now they’ve
buggered off all gone – but where am I supposed to park? The only space is two-minutes walk away and it’s dark and I’m not walking on my own in the dark!”
My dear Frank, in his wonderful, gentle way, said, “I’ll lock the door. We’ll only be a few minutes.”
So we hurried round the corner and onto the next street, where I had seen a parking space as I drove past. I hated leaving the children in the house for even a few minutes. If HRH had discovered us gone he might have panicked. He didn’t. We were back in no time. All’s grace, to quote Ann Voskamp.
And funnily enough, all is grace. I had been listening to some wonderful Taizé music just prior to all this. I confess if they’d caught me earlier in the day I may not have been so yielding. So I thanked God for His goodness (I had the Taizé echoing through my head the whole time) and puzzled over the very obvious lesson that had just been demonstrated to me.
I smiled and asked God, “What was that all about?”
And I think I understand the answer. It’s a very pertinent answer to some very pointed questions I have been asking lately. Questions that get right to the heart of what Looking Like Jesus is really like. Here goes:
As Christians, some of us are very good at demanding we are in the right (e.g. the recent petition against the changing of the definition of marriage). The letter of the law backs us up in this belief.
But we forget about kindness.
We forget about mercy. We forget that, although we meet at this point in time, the other person has travelled a very different path in life to ours, even if, right at this moment, they are there, in the same place, at the same time. What was that American Indian expression – something about ‘walking a mile in another man’s moccasins’? Jesus himself says ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’. Am I getting too esoteric here? I’ll try to stay straightforward!
Jesus, when He interacted with people, never let mercy and compassion be overruled by the letter of the law. He knew that none of us – ever – manages to stay sinless. He was the only one. And yet, the One who was always sinless does not act in condemnation and wrath to the sinners he meets, he shows them kindness, warmth, mercy, even the gift of friendship.*
If you are a Christian, consider, for a moment, do you spend more time being right, or doing right?
Can you walk away, even when you know that technically you are not the one in the wrong, because being kind matters more?
*If you’re wondering who it was Jesus was telling off (because he did go round telling some people off in no-nonsense terms) – it was those who had the outward appearance of godliness, or those in positions of authority, who were not living up to these outward appearances, though they were making sure those lower than themselves were made to pay for wrongs, or their situation in life. I won’t stick myriad bible verses in here – it’s all right there in black and white. If you haven’t read any gospels before, I’d suggest beginning with the Gospel of John, maybe using The Message version, because it is easily accessible http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+1&version=MSG.
Be blessed 🙂
Addendum: After discussion with a trusted friend and Frank, we decided that maybe The Good News Translation is easier to read than The Message, and that the Gospel of Mark, being the most compact, might be better for anyone new to the bible. So here’s a link: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+1&version=GNT