Each day, on my way to work, I drive down an access road which leads to a professional office park.
And each day, as would be obvious, I go the opposite direction on this road to head home.
Near the end of this road is a traffic light, and with its not-so-generous cycle, it lets approximately six cars through – seven if the driver is gutsy (eight if he or she doesn’t mind skirting the law).
So I, like many others leaving for the day, wait in line for my moment.
Of importance, is that right near this intersection there is a long entranceway to a Harley Davidson dealership. While waiting forever in line, one can watch a variety of un-helmeted bikers arriving on an assortment of vintage or newer Harleys. And, as also would be obvious, there's usually a large number attempting to exit.
Accordingly, a choice must be made by any number of drivers in regular cars and SUV's, as one or two (or seven) of these motorcycles and their riders wait to turn left; to be let in and join the line. Assuming someone is magnanimous (like me), and a biker is deemed worthy, he will inherit a placement not only at the front of the line (and in front of me and others who have been waiting our respective turns), but, quite often, his coveted position results in him being the last one to squeak through the intersection.
Some believe the riders should turn right and go to the back of the line, and wait, just like everyone else. It’s an awkward dance, no doubt, for to let one or two in means that my arrival at home or another engagement will be delayed. Or perhaps the delay will befall not me, per se, but the person (who works down the hall) waiting behind me, the very same person who will remember how I left him hanging as I darted through the last possible shade of yellow and off to freedom.
And then, perhaps, he’ll snub me.
Technically, society and etiquette deems that one rider should be let in, and then the next should enter in on the heels of the driver that let the first one in. And so forth and so on.
But society is not always so kind.
So the pressure starts to build, and the questions start forming in my mind, and I’m sure the minds of others while waiting: who will be the generous one? Am I even in the mood to let someone in? To be sure, these people in line with me, well, I work with them, so everyone is watching. What type of person am I now that I'm out of the office setting? What about that guy from accounting two cars ahead? What will he do?
Who will ignore the obvious and feign some distraction with the radio?
Who will pretend not to notice and speed toward the intersection?
The power is with us, the line of the expectant who have made it to the front. It’s a twisted mini-caste system but we hold the right of way, and with each passing moment we smugly enjoy our upward social stratification. Only due to some benevolence on our part will a rider be granted entrance to such a desirable spot.
What's more, even if we grant it, the spot is bequeathed not for the goodwill in our heart as much as it is for the expected thank-you wave, which is really what it all boils down to, right? That some stranger will render us kind, and acknowledge publicly what our mothers have told us all along: that we are good, and sweet and how could anyone not like us?
And so, this very non-fictional scene is set so that you may believe and imagine just a hint of fiction, for he, yes, none other than He, was riding away from that Harley dealership and he was waiting to be let in. I had watched him from my position much further back in line, and on this day, those with the collective power of the line were not kind to him.
(We can imagine him for Who he is, you and I, because by grace we have been given permission to dream such a thing, and the moxie too, to let fiction and fantasy overlap into the harsh rhythm of reality.)
So, there he waited, and he watched for someone. And he did so with patience and an otherworldly smile, for he had the time.
This was no easy choice for those in line, for truly that same time is of the essence. With each progression forward, I knew that others were expecting much of me and that co-worker in front of me – that we’d fall into line and keep things moving; that the crowd and the pressure of those expectations would dictate our next move.
With the time I had to mull this over, it became clear to me that conventional thinking keeps us focused on the intersection, our turn, our place, our destination. This not-so-generous cycle of life is beckoning us to press ahead – to give grace to others as we deem fit, not to accept it from someone who has too much time on his hands. It’s a Siren’s call of society that deafens and dictates that we’ll ignore the obvious, feign some distraction and pretend not to notice those waiting on the side, as we’re caught in the wake of another, squeaking out our last chance to make it and leave others behind
He knows this. And it took me a couple light cycles, but I slowly realized he was not trying to get in; he was simply trying to get our attention. So he pulled to the side and he parked his ride. He probably skirted some law as he walked across and he stood in the median, waving not a thank-you but a greeting: to come, perhaps, over to where he had parked, and to hear more, away from the line of cars and the pressure and the awkward dance.
Truly this would be a dropping of everything to go and follow, would it not? The release of a coveted spot, among other things. My arrival at home or another engagement would be delayed.
And this is what I was thinking, snubbing him as I waited in line for my moment.
Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. (Matthew 16:24 The Message)