Else-Interest

This is the grill of a semi pressed up against Ade's passenger side window.

If you got the chance to read last week’s article, you’ll find that this week unfortunately started out in similar fashion for the Hein family.  I woke up at 7:15am on Monday morning to a phone call from my wife saying, “James, I need you to get down here.  I’ve been in an accident.”  Those are awful words to hear come from your wife’s mouth.  I was at least relieved to hear this news coming from her mouth and not from that of a police officer or first response personnel.  So, I got dressed, hopped in my car, and headed down highway 52.  By this point Adrian had called again and I understood that she, despite being naturally a little shaken up, despite the fire department taking her to the emergency room mostly for precautionary measures, was in pretty good shape all things considered.   She didn’t have any cuts or broken bones.  She wasn’t knocked unconscious.  Her neck was expectedly sore and we got some x-rays taken just to make sure nothing was broken, but she was remarkably unscathed.  It was abundantly evident that God’s angels were guarding her as the front, back, and entire passenger side of her car were annihilated.   

Due to her phone calls, I had the peace of mind that my wife was alright.  If I didn’t have those calls, I can’t tell you how upset I would have been.  I’m not even talking about wondering what might have happened to her.  That would have been more of apprehension I’m sure.  My ire would have been produced at frustration over everyone else on the road.  You see, as I was travelling down Highway 52, traffic was backed up worse than it would ever get in Rochester under normal circumstances.  It was Monday morning at about 7:30am and people were livid that they were going to be late for work.  At one point when I was stuck in the traffic I remember looking around and seeing someone on their cell phone in front of me, in back of me, and on both sides, all clearly upset as they were talking to someone on the phone (I assume they were notifying their work that they’d be late).  The saddening part was that this was right under a sign that said “CRASH AHEAD.  EXPECT DELAYS.”  I can’t imagine how angered I’d be if I knew my wife was in an accident ahead but didn’t have the knowledge that she was okay, and all people around were concerned with was being 10 minutes late for work.  What was further frustrating was that people became so impatient that the traffic spilled over into the emergency lane on the right hand side.  All I could think was, “If my wife was dying in her car right now and an ambulance couldn’t get to her because of the anxious workers clogging the emergency lane next to me, I’d have trouble forgiving their carelessness.”   

Now, as I mentioned, my wife was okay.  Her car was totalled.  She was the victim of a terrible multi-car accident that ultimately wasn’t her fault.  The insurance reports are kind of a pain.  It’s frustrating, no doubt.  But she was okay.  We had a lot to be thankful for.   

I couldn’t, however, seem to shake the disgust that I had, however, over the other drivers on the road that day.  I’m not talking about those perhaps responsible for the accident.  I’m talking about the casual “inconvenienced” observers.  I don’t know if I’ll ever forget the looks on some of their faces.  Without the ability to see their hearts, my honest evaluation was that their only concern was clearly the delay this accident had caused for them.  Now that’s probably an unfair generalization on my part, but from being at a dead stop and getting the chance to look around, it seemed to be obvious.  The thought of someone suffering or dying up a mile ahead either hadn’t crossed their minds or simply hadn’t concerned them.   

A little perturbed, as I thought about this later in the day, the question crossed my mind, when was the last time my first reaction to being stuck in traffic was “I hope everyone is okay.”?  I realized then that I really had no experiential right to point fingers here.  I remembered the many, many times I’d been stuck in traffic travelling from home to school and back.  At times I’d get stuck in traffic in Chicago for 2+ hours.  My concern at that point, truth be told, was probably not primarily for the well-being of those ahead.   

Let’s just be honest for a minute – our default position as human beings seems to be one of self-interest.  And we’re okay with that.  Supposedly this is even one of the tenets that makes a capitalist economy work.  Self-interest doesn’t, however, make us “nice people”.  Franklin D. Roosevelt, like him or not, was a uniter during a difficult time in our country’s history.  He once famously said, “Self-interest is the enemy of all true affection.”  Agreed.   

There’s one Bible story that leaps out of the pages of Scripture when it comes to the interest of others ahead of self.  Although the many examples in Jesus’ life would illustrate the blessing of brotherly love, it was a story that Jesus told about neighborly love that perhaps paints it clearest – The Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Jesus was prompted to teach this parable as the result of some comments from a clearly misguided young man who was under the impression that he was a “pretty good guy”.   

You may know how the story goes.  If not, check out (Luke 10:25-37) http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2010:25-37&version=NIV.  A Jewish man gets mugged on the way down from Jerusalem.  He’s beaten, stripped, and robbed.  Two church-going Jews (clergy no less!) happen to come by the half-dead victim.  They pass by on the other side of the road not wanting to inconvenience themselves with the problems of their Jewish neighbor.  Then, a Samaritan, a natural ethnic enemy to the Jews, comes to the victim and shows love, compassion, and mercy to him.  He tends to the victim’s wounds, transports him to a nearby inn for recovery, and pays for the man’s stay at the inn, coming back later to check up on him.  Self-interest?  No way.  This was else-interest; God-glorifying interest;  Christ-like interest.   

There’s a fascinating (almost eerie) similarity that’s been coming up recently for me when I talk to those who haven’t traditionally been church-goers that’s led me to this conclusion: There’s perhaps nothing that turns people off of church or Christianity faster than Christians who don’t act like Christians.  The apparent hypocrisy just leaves such a bad taste in the mouth that some people want nothing to do with it.  I’m not simply talking about immorality here either.  As much or more so it’s the loveless way we Christians sometimes talk about others or the loveless attitude we sometimes project when we’re just more concerned about ourselves than anything or anyone else.  It’s interesting that non-believers don’t always understand Christianity, but they often understand what Christianity is not or should not be.  And when they see Christians acting in such a way, it only confirms their negative preconceived notions.  

The converse is also true though.  When non-believers see the love of Christ in our concern for one another and for mankind, they often recognize something special is there.  When they hear the message of the most selfless man who’s ever walked the planet, Christ himself, and when they understand he did it because he personally loved them that much, they know why we’re motivated to speak and act in love.  

I’m not condemning everyone who was southbound on Highway 52 on Monday morning :).  I get it.  I’ve been in traffic jams too.  I understand how frustrating it gets.  I am saying though that I personally have a fresh perspective on what Jesus’ taught about concern for my neighbor.  I hope I’ll have a new appreciation for the trouble others may be in ahead of the inconvenience I may experience.  And I’ve realized that if I can keep my heart on the cross and my eyes on my neighbors, my mind won’t worry so much about myself.

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22 thoughts on “Else-Interest

  1. allysonnichole says:

    I’m glad your wife is okay! Thank you for sharing the message you learned from it all, that is one to keep close to my heart.
    Ally

  2. Michele says:

    The lesson you teach is an important reminder even though I have had that lesson many times but continue to “forget”. Thank you.

    It was worrisome to learn that Adrian had been in that pile up on Monday, but relief to learn she had no severe injuries. I know there are guardian angels 🙂

    • Thanks, Michele. I’m sure I’ll need reminding again soon too. Hopefully not a reminder on this level :), but yeah, it’s interesting to me that the truths of Christianity are definitely not a “learn once and done” thing.

  3. Chris Grabow says:

    Pastor Hein, my husband (a member of your congregation) recently told me about your blog, so I have you in my Google Reader now. I was one of those southbound 52 Monday AM and I did say a prayer for all who were involved (as is my habit when I see emergency vehicles). When I saw the car that was completely smashed in the front I assumed the worst, so I was quite relieved to see on the news later that there were no serious injuries. Having seen what that car looked like, I too am very grateful that your wife is OK. Praise God!

  4. MaryAlbrecht says:

    Pastor, please convey to Adrian that I am very thankful she is okay. There is an ironic twist to this story for me. I had been putting off getting some blood work done (I couldn’t eat before I went in). I decided I was going to do it Monday morning and leave home about 7:10. I didn’t end up leaving until approx 7:30. So of course I ran into the traffic jam. And because this was such a huge traffic jam, I did pray that no one was seriously hurt. It made me realize that it could have been me in that accident. I also noticed all the folks around me, talking on their cell phones, and some of them looking more than slightly annoyed that they would be late (no concern for those in the accident). Thank you for sharing, and once again, hope Adrian is doing well. Prayers for both of you!

    • Mary, I will do that (she’ll be very touched by all the comments here). Isn’t it crazy how a matter of moments affected by delays and a million other uncontrollable circumstances can affect our lives dramatically. A great reminder that we hang there by God’s grace every day.

  5. Andrea says:

    So glad Adrian is OK. I completely understand what you are saying. We can be so self centered and not even see what is happening to others that are right in front of us. Do you ever read Max Lucado? I am curious what you think of his writings. I recently saw a book that got me very curious called…”It’s not about me.” We are not the center of the universe even though society tells us we are and if we put God at the center of lives, we will find true happiness.

    • Thanks, Andrea. Yep. In short, I think Max Lucado is brilliant. Great story-teller. Quote machine. Fascinating perspective. And most important, he communicates God’s love and grace very clearly.

      • Andrea says:

        Great to hear about Max Lucado. I just ordered the book yesterday and I am looking forward to a good read. Hope Adrian continues to feel better.

  6. God has a wonderful way of giving us perspective. So much better to lose a cat than your wife. I saw the accident on 52 as I brought my kids to school and the thought that went through my mind is how God’s angel must have been there stopping that truck. Nothing but praise.

    • Right? Although I’d be okay with a lighter lesson for next week :). J/K. Ade and I have had that conversation several times about the cat now though. And yes, how strong are God’s angels??? Well, I now have a more concrete answer to that question – strong enough to stop a semi on the highway.

  7. MaryAlbrecht says:

    I get the feeling that I am seeing the beginning of a future sermon (God’s angels are strong enough to stop a semi on the highway)! And it will be a good one (as always)!

  8. Mary Lempke says:

    I am so glad Adrian is OK after such a scary accident. The picture is amazing…presence of mind to take a picture!!Give Adrian a gentle hug from me! Thank you for all of your blogs Pastor. They are all wonderful reminders and discussions in the real world. We never know when we will need to draw on the strength those reminders provide.

  9. Gina says:

    Ibid to all that has been said in the previous comments. I’m joining you in a prayer of thanks for Adrian’s protection.

  10. Daryl says:

    Wow! Glad to hear Adrian is ok! I do have a confession to make. I too was on 52 going southbound that morning. I had just dropped the kids off at school and was heading back home. I work from home so was busy thinking about an “important” call I had at 8am. I usually make it home no problem in less than 10 minutes from school, so I had enough time to make it home for this “important” call. As soon as I got turned down the 37th Street ramp, I knew I was in big trouble…stand still cars on 52, not good. I have to admit that my first thought was about being late for this “important” call. I called my wife at home to ask her to look up my call-in number in my calendar for my conference call. I got the number and dialed into the call. After I was joined my call, I started to think about why in the world was the traffic stopped. It then finally occur to me that it must have been a bad accident. I felt very bad for first thinking of my “important” call. I felt that all those “important” calls really didn’t seem “important” when you think of a someone being in an accident. Ironically, I have been in the situation where I received a call notifying me that my brother had died in a car accident. Usually when I see accidents, that is the first thing I would think about…I guess as time pasts, it because easy to slip back into the “self” view of thinking how is this going to affect me.
    Thanks Pastor for giving me a reminder on keeping focus on what is important. God is soooo amazing how he uses daily situations in people’s lives as remainder to us. We don’t always understand his ways, and sometimes it is much tougher than what we would like, but He does truely love us and watches over us.

    • Daryl, you’re experience and insight is very helpful. It’s a helpless feeling and one I’m hoping to be more sympathetic of for others in the future. Thanks for reading!

  11. Debbie says:

    I rejoice with you and Adrian in the wonderful protection and love of God. We are so selfish and so concerned about being the center of our own universe!! When we reach out with love and concern to others we all benefit. From first hand experience, that phone call that comes and tells you that your brother has died in a car accident is really devastating and those moments never leave you. Thanks for once again pointing out that even as Christians we have such a long way to go. God is so wonderful and even in the worst of situations he never leaves us alone!! So glad that Adrian is ok!! You are both in my prayers.

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