I may be the biggest dork in the world!
Case in Point 1:
It was 1976. I know the year because I had just graduated high school and was well on my way (at least in my mind) to changing the world for the good of all mankind. I have no clue what I would do with my life after 1977 but taking a year and changing the world seemed like the right thing to do.
I was pulling out of a convenience store in Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, where my grandparents had once live and was now the home of my mom’s aunt Mary. Being the good son I was, and because I was threatened, I had volunteered to fix a window in the basement of Aunt Mary’s home. I am the biggest dork in the world when it comes to working with tools. So, not a small amount of blood was shed on my part during the repair. Hence my trip to the convenience store on that day. I required Bactine, Band-Aids, fudgecicle(s), Coke and Pop Rocks (the Coke and Pop Rocks were to test the theory that when mixed [i.e. in my stomach] an explosion would occur. I tested the theory in the parking lot while patching myself up, no explosion occurred until later. But I digress.
One thing that must be noted about this area (an old ethnic neighborhood) was that there were an inordinate amount of bakeries, delis and funeral parlors. My guess is the funeral parlors came in handy after years of frequenting the delis and the bakeries. As I recall Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin was playing on the radio as I patiently waited for a funeral procession that had just pulled out from the funeral parlor next door. The procession seemed to go on forever and somewhere along the line I got caught up in the music.
I was grooving along with Jimmi Page and the boys when the procession finally came to en end, allowing me to turn out of the convenience store. I was now behind the funeral procession but having great music on my 8 track tape player and not being in any hurry I really did not mind the slow moving traffic.
As any good driver does my eyes were constantly moving from the traffic (albeit slow traffic) in front of me then to my mirrors to see what was coming up behind me. It was at that point I noticed a little old lady driving behind me. You know the kind, blue hair, looking through the steering wheel that she was choking with both hands. Seeing her reminded me of my grandma and I had to feel a little sorry for her as she drove. Where was she going? Did she have a family? Why was she driving in the middle of the day with her lights on? How did she get her hair so blue? Why was she . . . driving with her lights on? She did, she had her lights on, hmmmm.
I leaned out of the window a little bit to get a good look in my rear view mirror and, as I now expected, there was a line of 10 or 12 cars behind her that also had their lights on with little yellow flags on the roofs of their cars. Now I am not some sort of super genius but I was able to figure out that somehow I had gotten myself smack dab in the middle of the funeral procession. At that point my compassion for the blue haired, steering wheel clutching, little old lady vanished. If she hadn’t been so slow coming out the funeral home’s parking lot I would never have been in this position! She was at fault. She was to blame. It certainly could not be my fault. I was just minding my own business, changing the world for good, listening to Stairway to Heaven. How could it have been my fault, I was 18 and knew everything there was to know about . . . well . . . about everything.
But I assured myself there was nothing to worry about. It was simply a matter of turning out of the procession. So, at the next major road I turned right. There, done, now to just enjoy the music. A glance in the mirror, just to make sure grandma caught up with the processional and . . . No, this could not be possible, grandma turned too. And the car behind her turned, and the car behind that turned, and the car behind that. I stopped counting at seven cars.
Now I had a problem, so I took a deep breath and leaped into action. I screamed:
“What is the matter with the stupid old lady? Can’t you see I am not a participant in the processional? Why do you have a license at all? It’s your miserable children! How could they possibly let you keep driving?”
When faced with a problem I like to start with irrational panic while blaming others for my mistakes. ”Relax, take it easy, this is no big deal”, I told myself.
“Are you nuts? No big deal, you have half a funeral procession following you. I would call that a big deal!”
After panic, I find screaming at myself gets me ready to really take some action. I needed to handle this situation in an adult manner. I floored it!
30, 35, 40, 50 MPH, that should do it. A look in the mirror and . . . but noooooo Hazel, with her blue hair flying in the wind, just like the 7 (or more) funeral flags right behind her, was right on my tail. When I reached 55 I decided I had better slow down before someone got hurt (besides my 10 year old VW hatchback could not go much faster than 55). So I backed it down and pondered my options.
I could slam on my breaks and tell them the truth---YEAH RIGHT! Besides I might get rear-ended and that is something you did not want to happen in a 1966 VW. I could just keep driving until they realized their mistake, but I rarely had more than $1.00 worth in my gas tank, which would take me back to option 1. Then an third choice became clear as day. It was like a light went on, a yellow, caution light on a stoplight. I flew through the stoplight on yellow (knowing the red light would save me).
Just a little aside, the United States both combined and individually and it’s people, believe it is important to honor the dead. We put obituaries in the newspapers. We send flowers to the funeral homes. We take covered dishes to the families of the dearly departed. And, on the way to their final resting place we line up our cars, turn on our lights, put little magnetic flags on our roofs and head off to the cemetery. On the way there we are accorded various honors. The procession drives unimpeded (theoretically). Other raffic is stopped at intersections. And red lights are allowed to be ignored. Now, back to our story.
Arggggggggh, they were all going through a red light! “Of course you twit . . . ” (when upset I often resort to name calling). “Of course you twit, it’s a funeral procession. They are allowed to go through red lights!”
Back to panic: “WHY ME, WHY ME, WHY ME, WHY ME, WHY ME, WHY ME, WHY ME?”
Strangely enough that did no good, so I floored it again. I was now going faster than I had ever gone in my my car. I had it pegged at 56 MPH but they kept up with me. Up a street heading north, down a street heading south, east, west, the mall parking lot, a McDonalds drive through, I threw things out the window hoping she would back off, coke can, Pop Rocks, Bandaids, pieces of a ’66 VW, Bactine bottle, but they stuck to me like the fudgecicle to my shirt!
Then, right ahead was Shaker Square. My perfect opportunity. I joined the other traffic going around the circle (square). As I caught up with the last car in the profession I took a quick right. And (thank God) granny started following the last car. As I drove away the procession was going round and round. I have often wondered how long they chased their own tail.
You know that is life. Way too often we waste time following the wrong person, thing, or desire that gets us nowhere. It is our constant job to evaluate the direction we are going because it is so easy to get off track. Make sure you never put too much emphasis on your ministry. While I am sure it is needed and that you have a passion for it, never put it before the Lord. I speak from experience when I tell you it is very easy to do. And, even though, your pastor’s heart might be in the right place we must never place him/her above Jesus. And let’s assume (and I mean ASSUME) one of your children is absolutely the perfect child, never in trouble, never talks back, room spotless. If you put him/her at the top of your worship pyramid you are just asking for trouble. And you just might, by appearance, have the world’s best marriage but when you put your husband or wife alone on a high pedestal you are just looking for trouble.
The only way to make sure you are headed in the right direction is to put Christ firmly in your crosshairs. I can promise you this: Put Christ first place in your life and everything and everyone else will fall into place. You have no chance of getting lost and led in the wrong direction.
Somewhere, someplace there is little, old, blue haired lady who wishes she had paid more attention to who she was behind.