Saturday, September 12, 2009

Who Am I (again)?

I got to thinking this week about the person of John that different people see in different settings. I wrote about this some time ago--hence the "again" part in the title. As much as we might try to be the same person on a consistent basis, we are different in each setting.

To the people that I work with, I'm John-the air traffic controller. They know about other aspects of my life, but I'm primarily a controller in their eyes. To the many churches that invite me as an evangelist, I' evangelist. Some know that I have a full time job, some don't. To the kids, I'm primarily a magician and a story teller. Overall, I've always thought that my personality is pretty consistent from one area of life to another.

Recently, I've started to wonder about that. I've noticed a difference in people when they are able to hide behind a degree of anonymity. For example: One day this past week, as I was driving on one of the many rural highways in southwest Missouri, a car pulled out in front of me. The highway speed limit is 55 mph. There was one truck close behind me and then nothing behind him. Now, I didn't have to slam on my brakes to keep from hitting this senior gentleman with the handicap license plates, but I did have to brake to the point of dropping (quickly) to about 30 mph to avoid rear ending him. While honking the horn and loudly voicing my displeasure at his disruption of my nice cruise home, he simply looked at me in his rear view mirror and held up his hands and shrugged his shoulders as he slowly inched his way up to about 50 mph on the two lane highway with just enough traffic and just enough hills to keep me from passing him.

I'm not sure if his gesture was and act of contrition or if he was taunting me. In any case, I eventually calmed down and had to kind of laugh at myself. If this had happened coming out of our church parking lot and was one of our senior adults, I would have stopped if necessary and waved to them as I allowed them to go on their way. Why shouldn't I allow the same gracious behavior to this gentleman that I don't know. Or why would I allow this stranger to anger me so easily. Is it as simple as he doesn't know me; I don't have to actually confront him; and so I am going to allow myself to be rude and hateful?

I'm thinking that if I would have hit the guy, I probably would have made sure that he was all right and NOT blown up about him pulling out in front of me. Sometimes, personal confrontation has a way of tempering my emotions. I've noticed that I am much more likely to be rude over the phone than in person. If people know me, I'm more likely to try to be the person that they know (you know, the gentle spirit, kind and loving guy, etc.) rather than the ugly guy that lurks beneath.

Perhaps, that is part of the problem that we have in our society today. It is easy to be anonymous. We isolate ourselves in our cars. We text instead of talk. We read and comment via the internet. We send unwelcome e-mailings to the masses. And we forget that good manners and not-so-common courtesy is for all occasions--not just when we are face to face.

There are many that read this blog that I know and that know me. There are many more that I will never meet outside of this virtual blog world. I know that some of you are atheists and some are not. You come from different faiths--Evangelicals, Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, and others. Some are politically active--as conservatives, liberals and moderates--and some are not. Some of you have few choices when it comes to politics as you come from many different countries and political systems. Some of you are very young and trying to make your way in the work world. Some of you are retired. The point is--we are all different. And being different (or having differences) is no reason to be rude to each other.

When I come to my senses after an episode like the one with the driver pulling out in front of me, the first thought that I always have is, "I wonder if I'll ever run into that person at a church where I've been asked to preach?"

It's a disturbing thought. It puts me in a place that gives me an ineffective testimony. Rudeness never inspires dialogue. Do you think that this old man would ever pay attention to anything I have to say should he recognize me as the guy that was yelling at him on the highway?

I know that some people are easier to love than others. I'm probably not one of the easiest...but God loves me, just the same. And He loves you, too. And He calls on me to love you.

So, if I try to be more lovable (that's to make it easier for you and the people that are around me), would you agree to trying to be more lovable for the people that are around you? I have a feeling that a little respect, some good manners and some common courtesy would go a long ways toward making our little corner of the world a better place.

A long time ago, I received this comment on one of my posts. The first part quotes something I wrote followed by the comment:

"Whatever your political affiliation may be, we must remember to pray for those that set policy and practice for our country. The Bible tells us that all authority on Earth is given by heaven."

We *must*? I am an atheist. Are you one of those who believes that the only moral authority is that which comes from the Bible? If so, we have no starting point from which to discuss.

I responded with another post. My virtual atheist rarely posts comments anymore, so I don't know if he still reads or not. He doesn't post on his blog often and hasn't had a feed to subscribe so I only check in on him on occasion. I just added him to my Google Follower, so I should be notified when he posts. In any case, we became virtual friends for a while and even shared a couple of e-mails back and forth. For some reason (and I'm really not sure why) this is a guy that I think I'll get to meet someday. My first instinct was to respond with a wise crack like "God doesn't believe in atheists." I'm glad that I didn't...and I hope that he still reads from time to time.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is found in 1 Corinthians, chapter 9. Paul writes:

19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

In between the insignificant posts on what goes on in the head of John, I want to return to telling you that God loves you and sent His Son, Jesus to die for you. I won't pretend to be Paul, becoming all things to all men. But I will try to keep the dialogue open so that we can discuss heaven and hell and how I believe that you can get into one and stay out of the other. With all of my heart, I believe that the only way to heaven is to trust your eternal soul to Jesus.

As always, we can discuss your questions privately or publicly, via email or comments, or you can call me or send a text message.

Still struggling to be more like Him,

John <><


Sicilian said...

Your transparency is moving. . . . . I find myself struggling with many issues too. . . . I have found myself limiting my blog posts. . . . I seldom post my true feelings . . . .
Thanks for making it real John. . . .

Mike said...

A real live heart and soul post!

I've had to stop hollering at people on the road for other reasons.

Wv: syncent : John, you get to make up the definition of this one.

Amanda said...

John, this was such a honest post. Its so true, what you said about anonymity. And also, I find that because people feel that they have "right's", they often make it known in rude ways, sometimes even face to face. I know I have been guilty of that.

Claudia said...

I blow off steam by anonymously yelling at other drivers or at people on television. Probably lots of us do. We must be simmering down deep inside about other issues, and when somebody drives too close to us or too slowly or whatever, it's an excuse to let out a "primal scream." Then there are times when all I want to do is hug everybody, like yesterday at my graduation.