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Friday, May 27, 2005

Cab Ride In Atlanta

So I was sitting in a cab on my way to the Atlanta airport yesterday, when I asked the cabbie how long she had doing this kind of work. She was middle aged, overweight, and after fourteen years and hundreds of thousands of miles, it didn't take a rocket scientist to guess that she had probably seen some interesting things.

With a few more questions, she began to tell us about herself - her likes (Atlanta), her dislikes (all the Mexican "illegals" moving in), even her deficiencies ("road rage").

Road rage? (All of us passengers did a double take). My friend Ted decided to treat it like a joke: "Does that mean I shouldn't open the glove box?" He's grinning on the outside, but both of us are paying careful attention to how she responds.

"Ah, nah, I ain't packing heat," she laughs, in her thick southern drawl. "If I was I'd probably shoot someone."

Really? Hmm. How do you respond to a comment like this? We try something relatively safe, "Well I guess we better not tick you off then." (Note to self: tip this woman well!)

She laughs again and explains that it's usually other drivers that really get her dander up. Then she proceeds to tell us how she and another driver got into a tit-for-tat one day, each cutting the other off repeatedly, until finally, the other driver rear-ended the car in front of him while yelling at her out the side window. She actually, stopped her car, got out and hollered, "So sorry you had an accident! Too bad you're going to be late now! Ha ha ha..."

Wow. This woman means business.

As we drove by the church where the runaway bride was supposed to get married a couple of weeks ago, police officers were stopping traffic to allow pedestrians to cross the road (another wedding, perhaps?). She explained to us this was why she was a few minutes late in picking us up. Not only was there traffic, but she had stopped to jaw at a cop who wasn't moving quite quick enough for her. And then she started telling us about her other experiences with police, and this is where it really got interesting.

It turns out she had gotten pulled over for speeding once, and when she was required to appear in court, her father insisted on going with her. "My adopted dad" she clarified. "He always treated me just like his other kids."

So she shows up in court, and the officer who had written the ticket was clearly unnerved at the incident. "Um, I'm real sorry about this, sir - if I had known she was your daughter, I would have just given her a warning." Turns out her dad was a ranking officer in the force. Whoops.

But what really picqued my interest was the fact that she DIDN'T mention her father when the officer pulled her over. "Oh yeah, all my brothers and sisters, they'd always use his name to themselves outta trouble. But not me. I figured if I did it, I've gotta get myself out. It's only fair if I pay for my own mistakes, that's what I figure."

And that's when it struck me. Yes, it's certainly commendable that you pay your own dues, and it's definitely fair - but what if the debt is more than you can pay? What if you owe more than you can ever earn? In a situation like that, you would want a father who could post your bond, bail you out. She had that option, but her stubborn pride kept her benefiting from the privileges that were hers by virtue of being her father's daughter. If that debt had been higher, she would have been S.O.L.

And that, my friends, is precisely our plight. We owe a debt we cannot repay ourselves. Clemency is freely available, but only if we humble ourselves and call on our Father to rescue us. All it costs is our pride...

But then we were at the MARTA station, and life moved on. Just another cab ride in Atlanta.


At 6:36 PM, May 29, 2005, Blogger Charles said...

I like how you created that link between her Father and God. But isn't the situation a little different? Her siblings don't take responsibility for their actions and get their Dad to bail them out because he is their Dad.

Would you ask Jesus to "bail you out" because he is your Father, or would you ask him for guidance on how to become better because he is your Father?

That's the difference here. I no that it is subtle, but it is just be knit picking.

At 8:35 PM, May 29, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Hi Charles!

That's a good question. You are right in picking up on the way the brothers and sisters try to "use" their father to their advantage (really as a 'get-out-of-jail-free' card, to do whatever they want). That's not the gospel. Of course, no analogy is ever perfect; the part about her siblings is just in there because she said it.

But the part about the unpayable debt IS what the gospel is all about. When you and I sin (think 'act of high treason'), we incur an incalculable debt we cannot possibly pay. Because God is a God of justice, he must (and will) punish the guilty according to the seriousness of their sin (and if the punishment is 'eternal death', what does that say about the crime?).

But God is not only a God of justice - he is also a God of love and mercy, and because of that he has graciously provided a substitute to take our punishment in our place (Jesus). Jesus becomes a "big brother" of sorts, who steps into our shoes and pays our bill, and we get his righteousness instead (cf. Rom 3:21-26).

And that's where the analogy of God as Father comes into view - a Father saying, "there is no way you can pay the bill you owe, so I am going to step in and pay it for you." It's like when one of my kids smacks a baseball through a neighbor's living room window - he simply does not have the means to pay. But I will pay it for him, because he is my son.

So the point of the gospel is that we will all have to deal with God - either as a Loving Father, or as a Perfectly Fair Judge. If we prefer the former, then we have to come to him on his terms (sorrow for our wrongs, accompanied by trust in Jesus as our ransom). But if we insist on "paying our own way", then we will only ever know God as Judge, and in that case we are in deep doo-doo.

So that was really the point of the analogy - if you have a debt you cannot pay, you need someone who will intercede for you, or you are sunk. At the end of the day, that's the heart of the gospel.

At 4:55 AM, May 30, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked how you tied it all to pride. Pride is insidious, it seems to hides in everything. Pride keeps me from praying constantly because "I can fix it." or in this case, "I'll pay my own way." I'd like to see you touch on pride and its many forms in the future.


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