Sunday, July 9, 2017

Going the wrong way

Except for the heat, it would be hard to realize that we are already in July. The year is half over already, and I'm wondering where did the time go? Unfortunately, the news usually reminds me what's been happening over the last six months or so, and, quite often, the news isn't as rosy  as it could be.

One thing that strikes me, so it seems,  is the increasing number of automobile accidents locally caused by people going the wrong way on the freeway and on some regular roads as well. The most recent official number I could find was that in 2015 there were 15 accidents caused by wrong way drivers, both with and without fatalities. Looking at a local map for this year, just in the Phoenix area, there appeared to have been 17 accidents in 2017 already, and I'm wondering if that counts the latest one on the Fourth of July where one car caused six accidents, a number of injuries, and one fatality. \

It's almost a weekly event, it seems. It's not exactly something that brings the feeling of safety for anyone driving on the highway or freeway.

Most of the wrong way accidents are caused by alcohol, drowsiness, or other mental anomaly. I realize that sometimes getting on and off the freeway can be a confusing event. I go on one area freeway about once a year, and it takes me a few minutes to remember that I have to turn before the stoplight and not on the far side of it to change from a side street to the on ramp. I have an absolute horror of finding myself driving in the wrong direction and causing an accident, or turning right onto an off ramp because I missed the entrance to the on ramp. I'm sure I'm not alone in this fear, no matter impossible it seems.

A lot of people in the Bible seem to have made the wrong way turns and ended up going in a direction counter to what they should have been taking. Look at Jonah. He didn't want to go where God told him to go, so he took off and found passage on a boat headed in another direction. We know the story: storm comes up, the crew gets scared, throws Jonah overboard where he is swallowed by a very large fish and taken for a three-day journey. Evidently Jonah was a pain in the belly as well as a pain in the neck. The fish regurgitated Jonah onto a beach and apparently Jonah learned his lesson.

Look also at Abraham. He was told to go and sacrifice his son, and he did exactly as he was told. Many think he should have refused to even consider such an act, but God told Abraham to do it and Abraham did — at least up to a point. God provided a ram instead, and Isaac was saved. Did Abraham take a wrong turn? It probably seemed so at first.

Looking back on my life, I see a number wrong turns that I have made, and wrong choices that I  made that I had considered to be what I was supposed to do, just like Abraham. There have been so many I can hardly count them but there were far more than wrong way accidents in the Phoenix area in the first half of this year. Most of them I learned from, something I'm hoping those drivers who chose to go the wrong way learned from their mistake. Sometimes I had to repeat the lesson more than once, and it was never easy. Still, when you come to an intersection, you either have to go straight ahead or make a turn, and if you do make a turn, it had better be in the correct lane or an accident may be inevitable.

The Bible also gave us a number of rules, signposts, and street signs that give us clues as to how to avoid making a wrong turn. I'm sure all Christians are aware of these, things like the Beatitudes, the 10 Commandments, the wisdom of the prophets, and the teachings of Jesus and those who continued his message down through the ages. It never was about giving clues that might send people down the wrong way, even though many, many times people have misconstrued what they have heard and read and have taken the wrong path due to their misunderstanding of what they had been told or what they have read for themselves. Because of these misunderstood rules, millions have been injured, slandered, tortured, ostracized, and killed because otherwise "good" people took a wrong turn. It seems to be happening more and more frequently and with worse and worse consequences.

So what can we do to prevent going the wrong way and hurting or, God forbid, killing an innocent person who is just living their life the best they could? Sticking with one of the overarching themes of the Bible, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Few people ever really enjoy hurting themselves; most of them are trying to replace one kind of pain for another. If all of us love one another as we love ourselves, think what an idyllic world this could become: no bullying, no fear, no preferential treatment for specific groups, classes, cultures, races, or any other kind of self-defined people. That  would be a pretty good start I would think.

We've had a number of examples of people who have followed that instruction, and we can see the benefits of that versus the "Me first!" way of living. I have a feeling that if God didn't really want us to do that, God wouldn't have said it in the first place, and Jesus wouldn't have made it such a focal point of his ministry. It seems to me that's a pretty good signpost.

This week I have to look to see where I maybe traveling in the wrong direction and endangering others in some way. I have to carefully weigh my choices, consider the consequences, examine the possibilities, and most of all, investigate who would be helped or hurt by the choices I make. Going to be a busy week.

God bless.

Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Café Saturday, June 8, 2017.

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