Tuesday, March 10, 2009
That's Right, I'm Bad!
Most people, religious or not, are familiar with the season of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. Probably the most common expression in all of Christendom is, "What are you giving up for Lent?" To which the reply is usually something like "chocolate" or "ice cream".
Our rector sees Lent as a time when you should be trying to improve yourself, and it should be something that becomes permanent, not a 6-week wonder. It could be giving up a bad habit (like chocolate or ice cream) or it could be developing a good habit.
Fearful of doing something positively stupid like giving up ice cream for life, I went looking for a good habit to develop. And I found one: forgiveness. Specifically, while driving.
Where before I made a habit of making moral judgments on other drivers, and offering them suggestions for improvement, I now forgive them. It can be quite satisfying, really, driving down the street saying, "I forgive you ... I forgive you ... and I forgive you, too." My seat is now a throne, as I rain my beneficence down upon lesser mortals.
Lest you decide to adopt this method of self-improvement yourself, let me warn you: there are drawbacks. First, be careful not to expand your forgiveness into areas of your life where the person might actually know that you are forgiving them. For example, it is not always a good idea to tell friends and loved ones, "I forgive you." Be certain they are seeking forgiveness first. Otherwise, you might find yourself in the position of desperately seeking forgiveness yourself.
Second, it might be a good idea to not to let others even know about your forgiveness program. When Jesus forgave somebody, the scribes went haywire: "Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" [Mark 2:7] Hey, if they got that upset about Jesus forgiving people, imagine what they'll do with you!
The third drawback is the most painful (providing you remember not to talk around scribes): don't expect to be forgiven in return. And for this point, I offer Exhibit A:
I was driving Suellen home from a branch library, on an unfamiliar section of road, when I misjudged the length of a yellow light. Suellen pointed this fact out to me. For about five minutes. She was right, of course (she always is). The light was clearly red when I entered the intersection. But I didn't hit anybody, there was no patrol car behind me, and so the episode ended with my resolution to become a better person. No damage done.
Or so I thought.
Chicago has discovered a splendid fund-raising device: traffic cameras. These wonderful devices, placed strategically at busy intersections, see everything. And they record everything.
And so, when we got home from yesterday's appointment, we found this in the mailbox:
It may not be clear from the scan, but there's our blue car, going through a clearly red light. What should be clear, if you click on it, is that it cost me $100.
As Suellen cheerfully pointed out to me, it is actually possible to watch a movie of your very own personal violation online. Which we did. Isn't that great? It was amazingly clear! Isn't technology terrific? Isn't it improving our lives immeasurably?
Honestly, I don't remember the light being red for that long before I entered the intersection.
The third drawback of forgiving people is that there is no forgiveness for the forgiving.