One Wednesday evening I was driving to an elders’ meeting at my church. Because I had taught a 4 pm class, I had just 40 minutes, from 4:50 to 5:30, to get to the meeting. And at 5 the traffic picks up considerably on the arterial I need to drive on, so the pressure’s on. Sometimes I just skip supper and wait to eat till I get home, but that day I was hungry—hangry—and there’s a Hardee’s right on the way so, maybe, if I time it just right, I can rush out of class, get on the road before the crush starts, and pop into the drive-through lane for a quick burger that I can eat on the way. Boy, that would be great.
No students need to talk to me after class—that’s the first auspicious sign. I skip dropping my stuff off at the office and hustle to the car, parked right outside the classroom building, and throw the books into the back seat. Fire up the car, straight ahead, left at the gym, out the side gate, right to the light, left to the Hardee’s. Not much traffic so far.
Nobody in line at the drive-through! Awesome! I pull into the parking lot and swing around to the order spot. Hustle, hustle, hustle.
The voice comes on. I order the mushroom and swiss burger, “Just the sandwich, please.”
“Would you like fries with that?”
“No thank you, just the sandwich, please.”
“How about a drink?”
“No, just the sandwich.”
“Could I interest you in a—“
“JUST THE SANDWICH!”
Oh, great. My single-minded focus on my own little problem has just led me to yell at a perfectly nice teen-aged girl who’s working hard and taking responsibility for her own life, just like I always say teen-agers ought to. And in a minute I’m going to pull up at her window and have to talk to her face to face.
What an idiom. What a maroon.
I briefly consider just driving away, but that would be, well, cowardly, and plus, I’m still hungry.
So I pull around to the window, and the little wisp of a thing leans out of the window and says, “I’m sorry, sir, but I have to ask you those questions. I’ll get fired if I don’t.”
I tell her I’m sorry, and I know she was just doing her job, and she’s doing an excellent job at that, and what I said was uncalled for, and I’m sorry, and I’m really, really sorry.
And I was. Because I was wrong. Utterly, completely, abysmally wrong.
Where did that rudeness come from? I was on my way to an elders’ meeting, for crying out loud. At church. All for Jesus!
That rudeness showed up because it was in there. Because it’s a part of who I am. Self-centered. Impatient. Unkind. Just rude.
I want to think otherwise. I really do. I’m a good person, right?
No, I’m not. Not because people are basically good, and not because I had two good parents, and not because I grew up learning to get along with siblings, and not because we didn’t have video games when I was a boy, and not because uphill both ways.
And this after more than 50 years of sanctifying work by the ever-faithful Spirit of God. After all this time, you’d think I’d be better than this.
But I’m not.
And that, my friend, is just one tiny reason, of many, why I’m not a secular humanist.
From every stormy wind that blows,
From every swelling tide of woes,
There is a calm, a sure retreat—
’Tis found beneath the mercy seat.