Friday, December 3, 2010

grace at the intersection

Something that has always baffled me about Harry Potter type stories is the fact that two people who both have magical powers don't keep casting spells to do and undo things. I mean, it makes sense to me that if someone casts a spell to, for example, build a wall where there previously was no wall, that the other wizard should just as easily be able to cast a spell to undo the wall. With powers like that, it's a wonder to me that anything ever gets done. Shouldn't spell casting be like in Sleeping Beauty when the two fairies keep changing the color of the dress because Flora thinks the dress should be pink, and Merriweather thinks it should be blue. I mean, if you have the power to make what you want, why wouldn't you just keep insisting on your way?

I like the fantasy of wish fulfillment that wizard stories provide. But it's just that, a fantasy. In real life, I learn that my personal happiness is not the ultimate goal of the universe. I realize this every time I drive somewhere. There's something about operating a giant piece of metal housing a V6 engine that makes me feel so untouchable and powerful. I start thinking that I'm the only one who knows how to drive, and I get pissed off because someone cuts me off or is driving too slow in front of me.

But being on the road requires grace. It means forgiving a person for cutting me off because I understand that we all make mistakes sometimes where don't realize we didn't have the space to switch lanes. It means understanding that maybe someone is driving slow because they are lost and trying to figure out convoluted directions to wherever they're going. But it's more than just that.

The way I see it, you can be the kind of person who does a rolling stop at the 4-way intersection and just goes, or you can be the kind of person who lets the other person go first when you arrive at the intersection at the same time. Personally, I think it makes sense to let the other person go because then you are absolutely ensuring that you will not have a collision due to both thinking that it was your turn to go first. Grace can just be practical sometimes--submission to the other person in order to avoid a collision. On the road, we all have somewhere we have to be. So being a driver who thinks that you are the only person in a hurry is dangerous. And living as if you are the only person whose feelings matter and whose needs and desires should be met is, likewise, dangerous. When it comes to driving, I always [try to] practice grace. When it comes to life, well, I'm working on it.

It's not easy, but I actually think that offering grace to others is the less dangerous way to live. Not only because God says that's what we should do, but also because insisting that a dress be pink instead of blue can make a mess of things. Sure, we all want the dress to be the color of our choice rather than the color of someone else's choice, and we all want to be the first driver to get to go at the intersection, but me getting my way isn't what this world is about. [Even as I say that, I'm like, say WHAT?!]

But if I can remember that the world doesn't revolve around me, I can put others first and avoid unnecessary collisions. Practicing grace might not always get me that thing I wanted, but wish fulfillment isn't reality anyway, is it?