Saturday, February 6, 2016

Road Rage & the Year of Mercy

Driving in Oklahoma City can, at times, be a dangerous, unpredictable, terrifying feat of courage. In the months that I have lived here, I have learned a couple of tips for survival on the road.
1. Automatically assume that those cars-on either side of you-are going to suddenly merge into your lane without signaling. It doesn't matter that there's no room for them; just assume that they are going to merge-because oftentimes, they do anyway.
2. Be prepared for cars to merge into your lane while you're driving through an intersection. Should it happen? Nope. Does it happen occasionally? You betcha! So, mentally prepare yourself right now. 
As you can see, I quickly discovered that driving in Oklahoma City would not always be a cute little jaunt, a la Gilbreth.
The original Cheaper by the Dozen is really quite fabulous.

In fact, sometimes-especially when I'm on my way to church (more on that later)-it feels like I'm in Doctor Who.

Welcome to the Motorway, where you travel
5 miles in 12 years. Happy not-moving! 
When I first moved here, I didn't think it was all that bad. This is a much larger city than my college town, so at first, I thought that I should accept OKC driving as normal.Yet, as the days sped on, I realized that the driving can get utterly ridiculous. And so, in the order of things, I let my road rage unleash. Now, my form of road rage doesn't involve horn-honking, yelling, or cussing, but it still isn't that great. Shooting death glares at cars, muttering under my breath, and letting other drivers completely ruin my attitude for the whole afternoon? Check, check, and check. I figured, Well, my "road rage" isn't all that bad, and it's not my fault. It's the fault of all those insane drivers out there! I am totally justified in my response. I thought that I could still try to be a good, patient, gentle person most of the time, and if insane drivers in rush hour traffic ruined my attitude, that was their fault, not mine. 

On December 6, 2015, everything changed. 

Sitting in St. Francis of Assisi parish, in Kansas, I listened to the priest begin his homily. Since the Year of Mercy was beginning later that week, he decided to talk about-you guessed it-mercy. Specifically, the priest mentioned how he could improve his attitude while driving. Instead of letting the actions of other drivers make him mad, he could instead think: Mercy, mercy, mercy.

Oh. Right. Ummm...okay, God, I'll give it a try.

For the past two months, I've been working to keep this perspective and attitude when I drive, particularly when travelling to my parish. See, for whatever reason (Maybe it's God's sense of humor?), when I'm travelling the 12-15 minutes down the road to my parish, if cars wind up in front of me, they tend to drive 5-10 miles under the speed limit. This phenomenon particularly seems to happen when I'm running late, or when I've only allowed just enough time to arrive at church for an activity. To my dismay, I quite often have no way to pass whatever car is in front of me. It's really annoying. Since the Year of Mercy began, though, I've been trying hard to approach this situation differently. Instead of constantly grumbling to myself about the car in front of me, I'll just take a breath and silently think, Okay, God. This is super annoying. Guess you want me to grow in patience, and learn to leave the house even earlier.

Am I a pro at this whole "mercy" thing? No. 
Do I still grumble from time to time at the actions of the other drivers? Yes. 
Will I keep trying to get better at patience and mercy? Definitely. 

Yesterday in Adoration, this whole topic came to me as I was praying with a booklet on St. Francis of Assisi. I came across a phrase from St. Francis' "Admonitions" which was a huge gut-punch:
"The servant of God cannot know how much patience and humility he has within himself as long as everything goes well with him. But when the time comes in which those who should do him justice do quite the opposite to him, he has only as much patience and humility as he has on that occasion and no more." 
It's when the other drivers cut us off, merge without signalling, and drive vastly below the speed limit that our true colors shine forth. Especially in this Year of Mercy, let's all work harder to love better, be more patient, and spread God's joy when it's really, really hard to do!


  1. We've driven through Oklahoma City en route to TX and we've had a taste of the big city traffic around there! Not too fun! I will admit...I don't actually drive much, not since we moved to Malaysia. For one thing, we only have the one car, and if Angel's not at work with the car, then he's around to drive, so I don't have a compelling reason to, drivers and motorcycles in Malaysia are scary. I don't have an issue with road rage, but white-knuckling it as a motorcycle zooms past me in the 2.5 feet between my car and a cement wall, oh yeah. I'm working at feeling more at peace about driving--but it's a whole different beast from small town USA driving!

    1. Oh my, driving where you live in Malaysia sounds terrifying!!! It's good that you don't have to do it often. We also only have one car, so I (thankfully) don't drive all of the time, either-it's mainly when I drop my husband off at work so that I can run needed errands throughout the day. If only more driving experiences were like small town USA! Small towns are such peaceful places to travel around in :)

  2. I often realize how little patience I have (and how much frustration I have) when I drive. It's especially difficult on busy roads (we spent the last 3 years in the DC metro area...a traffic nightmare...and are now in the Houston area). I really like this approach of practicing mercy while on the road. I need to remember this!

    1. Oh my, going from DC to Houston sounds rough! (one of my good friends just moved to Houston, and she's told me about traffic down there) I'm glad that you like this approach! Ever since I heard about it, it's being doing lots of good for me :)