Yesterday, I was evil.
I had dropped the girls off at school and was driving into Debrecen when I, being a law abiding citizen, stopped at a red light. Patiently I waited as the seconds ticked away. I watched as the local panhandler approached the car ahead of me. I come by this corner so often I almost feel as if I know these guys. It's always one of two: either the old man with a beard or the young man with a crutch. They seem to take shifts as they are never there at the same time.
Yesterday, the young man with a crutch was "on duty." He stood by the passenger side window of that car in front of me held out his hands beseechingly, but the driver would not even acknowledge his presence. Eventually the young man with a crutch moved on ... to my car.
Some years ago, I heard a man who worked with the homeless talk about how damaging it is for the down-and-out when the populace outright ignores them. "At least look them in the eye and treat them like a fellow human being," he had said. And I took the advice to heart. Although I don't give money to random people, I can show them honor and respect.
The young man, probably in his early 20s, hobbled over to my car. He took a humble stance and mumbled his schpeel in Hungarian. I looked at him kindly and said in simple, yet polite Hungarian, "I'm sorry, no."
Bad move on my part.
To my surprise, the man refused to move on to greener pastures. He fixed his feet firmly beside my car and motioned again that I should give him some money.
Still looking him straight in the eye, I said more strongly and firmly: Nem!
But this did not deter him. Now his demeanor changed. No longer beseeching me to show grace and grant him my spare change, now he began hitting my window demanding money.
Perhaps I should have been afraid. But I was too angry for that. With fire in my eye, I leaned over in the seat to face him squarely and shouted determinedly: "NEM! NEM!"
Since he showed no sign of moving on, I shoved my car in gear and moved up a meter or so to hug the car ahead of me, secretly hoping I would roll over his "good" foot in the process.
How dare he! I scoffed angrily as I watched him approach the next car in my rearview mirror. Who does this guy think he is!?!?!?
The whole episode got my back up for the rest of the day, so much so, that I could not help but wonder why it bothered me so much.
Utterly rude ... competely obnoxious ... outrageous ... absurd
Yeah, it's true, desiring to run over his foot is not likely the proper WWJD response. But I also don't buy that the honest WWJD response would be to cowtow to this bully. Jesus was no mamby-pamby, weenie of man. He was the Christ who overturned the money lenders, took on the prevailing dogma of the day, and spoke words that cut like swords to the very core of the issue in each person's life.
Christ was no pushover, so as I lay on my bed last night, I wondered what lesson I was to glean from this life experience. And as I began to mull over the life lessons God has instilled in me of late, I realized when I get riled like this it is often because I am in some way like the person who has riled me.
Me like HIM ... you've got to be kidding.
But then I thought. This is how I sometimes come to God. Sometimes I come properly, beseeching Him in all humility realizing that all the good gifts of this life are by His grace. And then every once in awhile, when I am experiencing His affection and honor toward me, I suddenly decide I can demand things of Him -- even when He compassionately, yet firmly, says "no." And so I "criticize, contradict and answer back to God." (Rom 9:20)
And at that moment, I am not so different from the crazy panhandler hitting my window. Unlike me, God does not get angry and try to run over my feet. Instead, he continues to look at me with His great compassion and He patiently waits for me to understand He has made available all that I will ever need, but I'll never obtain it through my demands and temper tantrums. I'll only discover it through relationship with Him.
For in relationship, He gives his grace utterly and sacrificially.
Relationship is what Christianity is all about. And while we might like mask our demands and criticism of how God is working in the spiritual lingo of "prayers" and "prayer requests." Such mechanisms were never designed to give us an opportunity to tell God how to handle any given situation. Prayer is not us changing God's mind. Prayer is an opportunity to let God change us through fellowship with Him.
So let's fellowship with Him today in all humility -- releasing Him from all the demands we'd like to make. Let's just be with Him and trust Him to handle the rest.