I knew I shouldn’t have parked in the clergy spot. Mine was in the shop, so I was driving Thyra’s car, a two seat sports car. When I drive her car I feel funny parking in the clergy spot at our local hospital. So I headed past the wide open clergy parking space, thinking I would find another in the levels above. It was completely full. So I headed back down and decided to get over my misplaced sense of guilt. After all, her car actually cost less than mine when both were new. I was there to see two members who were in that hospital. That’s what the spot is for.
When I had completed my rounds and got back to the car, a woman came over and indicated that I should roll down my passenger window. When I did, she leaned over and with a fairly bright and visible gold cross hanging from her neck, said (in the most skeptical sounding tone you can possibly imagine), “Father???” I said, “No, the Rev. Jonathan Chute. Can I help you?” She said (in that same amazing tone) “Of what parish???” I said “Rolling Hills United Methodist Church.” By then I realized that she had thought, based on the car I was driving, that I was fraudulently using the clergy space. So I told her that this was my wife’s car and that mine was in the shop (I didn’t tell her that my wife was a physician at the same hospital.). When I asked her if she had a question with which I could help she said “Oh no!” and backed away, heading toward her own (more expensive?) automobile.
I realized what had happened. This is exactly why I didn’t want to park Thyra’s car in the clergy spot. She was probably distressed by any of the myriad problems in the wider world, or even perhaps in her own life, and many of them don’t seem all that fixable. But to see a two-seat convertible in the spot reserved for one of God’s faithful (and of course, humble) servants was too much for her to bear. She had to do something about it, and I was the villain in her story that afternoon.
Of course I do the same thing. When I can’t solve the problems of the world, or of my own life, it’s easy to bring that frustration and urgency to something going on right in front of me. My own self-righteousness and moral clarity is just as grandiose as hers was during our interaction in the parking garage. If I’m lucky I manage to do a better job of keeping it to myself. But I’m not always lucky.
Jesus said something about this. It’s in Matthew 7:3-5 – “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” It’s a good question. As I drove away from the hospital yesterday I began to feel rather righteous in comparison with the woman. But then I remembered how often I want to do exactly what she did – to somebody else.
Let’s be kind to each other, and (even) kind to ourselves, as we walk together as God’s people. We’ve all got enough going on that we aren’t handling all that well. Let’s encourage each other as we go.
Grace and peace,