Yesterday I had to run an errand after work to pick up my husband’s suits from the dry cleaner’s. There were several cars in the drive-through line and I was patiently waiting my turn. When one of the cars finished picking up their cleaning, everyone pulled up except for the man in the truck ahead of me. Still I waited behind him. He caught my eye in his rear view mirror and motioned for me to go ahead of him, which I did. I figured he must be waiting for someone in the small parking area. Before I knew it, he had gotten out of his truck and was standing at my window ranting at how I cut in front of him. I was incredulous at his anger at me since he clearly had told me to go around him. Apparently I misunderstood. He continued to scold me and yelled that he thought I was leaving the area and that he was motioning me to do just that. My profuse apologies didn’t deter him and he continued to blast me for my error. Needless to say, I was totally rattled and angered by his behavior. I even forgot to drop off my additional cleaning. All the way home I wondered what had caused this man to be so out of control.
Later that night, a friend relayed an incident that happened to her recently. As she was driving, someone behind her car road on her tail for quite some time. She obviously wasn’t going fast enough for him. He finally swung around her and gave her a very rude gesture as he passed. Have you ever been a victim of someone’s anger? It’s very disconcerting and very disheartening. What would cause someone to become so upset that they would lash out for something so small and insignificant?
People seem to be pressed in for many reasons. Maybe they’ve lost their job or their home. Maybe a loved one has been diagnosed with a disease. Maybe a spouse has been unfaithful. The reasons for angry outbursts are infinite. Our natural inclination is to get angry ourselves or to defend our position or to be rude right back. The truth is we never know what is going on in a person’s life when we encounter them. Which means, we should never judge them or be unkind. And that, my friends, is the challenge.
We are called to be holy, to be instruments of God’s love and healing in a very broken world. The problem is that we, too, are broken. So realistically, how do we respond in a Christ-like manner in difficult situations? The answer is pretty simple. It’s simple, yet very difficult in these times. The answer is a vibrant prayer life. Daily encounters with our God, whose name is Love, will soften the hardest of hearts, will smooth over rough edges, will soothe weary souls. Only He can heal our woundedness and allow us to respond with compassion to our angry neighbor. Those daily encounters are only the beginning. God will then give us ample opportunities to “practice” using what He so generously gives to us during those times of prayer. These practice sessions last a lifetime so we shouldn't expect immediate results. But little by little we'll hopefully begin to see subtle changes in our responses. Maybe we'll be able to let go of things a little easier. We'll be able to remember to take a deep breath and count to ten. We'll learn to walk away saying a Hail Mary for the antagonizer.
Jesus said, in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
Let's receive, then, this gift of peace that God longs to pour out on us. Let us allow it to cover us and flow out of from us. There may be a lot of angry people out there, but we can, in our own little way, become as St. Francis said, a channel of God’s peace. Maybe next time I'll handle things a little better. I can be sure that God will give me another opportunity. He always does.