Thursday, October 30, 2008

Elections and Grace

Sometimes I am painfully aware of how unlike Jesus I really am. Just before we left for Zambia Paula and I were in a Staples store looking for an external hard drive, and when we asked for help because we couldn’t find what we needed, we were greeted by clerkzilla – who looked much like a regular store clerk except that she was convinced that her job description was to make every customer feel as though they were intellectual fleas.

ME: Hi. I’m looking for a portable, external hard drive with a firewire connection.

CLERK: They don’t make those. They only make desktop external hard drives with firewire connection. Besides, you don’t need firewire anyway. USB 2.0 is faster.

ME: No it isn’t.

CLERK: Yes it is. I’VE BEEN DOING THIS FOR OVER 20 YEARS!

ME: Actually, they DO make them, because I HAVE ONE, and NO, USB is not as fast and did they EVEN HAVE COMPUTERS 20 YEARS AGO?!

Jesus wept.

And today, driving that favorite stretch of road of mine, the pothole laden Lusaka to Livingstone road (also known as The Highway to Hell), the dark side of Jerry reared its ugly head once again.

You see, I don’t do well in heavy traffic, and by that I mean that the way some people drive makes me wish I had a rocket launcher attached to the front of my car so that when someone cuts me off without the courtesy of a simple signal, I could blast them into a thousand tiny little slivers of rudeness.

Tomorrow is election day in Zambia, and elections here are not the multi-million dollar, finely tuned machines they are in the states where candidates, in the most civil fashion, pretend to debate one another by ignoring every question the moderator asks and instead blatantly lie about their opponent. After which they shake hands and call one another “a fine American.”

Though I’m not sure exactly which quality makes them a fine American, whether its the ability to dodge questions, or to just make stuff up, or that they are able to do it and call it a debate.

In Zambia election campaigns are conducted from the backs of pick-up trucks and mini buses, filled to overflowing with revelers payed to shout and dance and sing in support of a particular candidate. Its a bit unruly and you can’t help but expect a riot to break out at any moment, but then the same is true of our conventions. But as a result, roads in Lusaka, where sitting in traffic has begun to replace football as the national pastime, come to resemble a Wal-Mart parking lot on Labor Day weekend, except that Zambians are generally better dressed than folks at Wal-Mart.

And when caught in the middle of it all, I just become very unspiritual.

Did you see that IDIOT!

Honey, he’s just changing lanes.

There’s no lane changing in a traffic jam! You just stay where you are! That’s the rule! UUGGGGGHHH. Stupid lane changing...lane...changer! UUUGGGHH.

And then I almost ran over a poor fellow hawking “Beware of Dog” signs and “Certificate Frames.” You have to understand, certificates are very big here.

Anyway, all of this though, just reminds me (rather painfully) how much I’m a work in progress. In one sense, I feel I should have by now risen above such trivialities, that obnoxious clerks and insane traffic should affect me about as much as does the social life of Brittany Spears (which by the way, is not at all).

But it does affect me and at first, it makes me a little depressed because I start to think that I am a terrible, traffic hating, clerk bashing Christian, which maybe means that I’m not a Christian at all. And where then does that leave me?

But then I realize what a false version of Christianity that’s based on. After all, God doesn’t accept us on our merits, but on His merits. He doesn’t redeem our lives based on our holiness, but based on His. As Jesus says in Mark 2:17, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.”

And so, I’m reminded today of that amazing thing called grace – God’s unmerited favor, and that God has saved me not because of who I am, but because of who I might become as He works in my life.

And when my own clerk bashing and traffic neurosis has me feeling quite unlovable, the realization that God’s love for me has neither been diminished nor repealed, causes me to be overcome with a desire to do a better job of extending some of that grace myself.

Even to people who CLEARLY deserve to be blown to smithereens.

2 comments:

Netta said...

ouch... yeah.. I totally relate. Just this week I had to apologize twice to the cable guy after he smarted off and then I did the same right back at'um and up-ed it a good one. grr. I'm so grateful for God mercy!
(and I really like the word "smithereens!")

Jerry and Paula Ireland said...

Thanks Netta. You are such a great encourager! Thanks for reading the blog and for faithfully commenting!