Those words always make me nervous. Though it was a text from a close friend, I began to think about everything I’d likely done wrong in the past six months. My reply was brief. “Starbucks at six?”
With a plan established, I resumed work with a lack of attention toward things that probably needed more than I had to offer. A few hours later, I left the office and drove the few miles to the Starbucks where we always met. He was sitting outside on the patio and stood up and greeted me with a hug. Awesome. I wasn’t in trouble for anything.
We made our way into the lobby and immediately were greeted by people we both knew. After five minutes of conversation, my compatriot threw an uneasy glance my direction. Miraculously, I understood. “Okay, we need to order and get out of here.” Clearly, he didn’t want anybody else to be within earshot of our conversation.
A few minutes later, we made our way out to my car clutching our hot drinks. Summer had finally given up the fight and cold weather was now accosting Boise (and my body and soul). We crawled in, fastened our seat belts and I began our drive. My orange Hyundai Accent would provide the privacy he sought. My car always made a wonderful prayer closet, too.
I didn’t really have any aim but found myself getting on the freeway as we exchanged updates on work, church and girls. He was stalling. Depending on the severity of anything I had to say, I might employ a similar tactic. Unfortunately for him, he was basically trapped until this conversation was completed. Knowing this, I jumped into it. “So tell me, what did you want to talk about?”
He laughed, but started to tell me a story. The narrative was entirely unexpected and meandered through the past few months. Getting caught up in the details, I ignored my speedometer and basically drove at the same pace as the cars around me. I listened, but made assumptions about what he was working toward. As he spoke, I thought, “Oh good. He struggles with that too. I’m so glad I’m not alone.” I wondered if expressing that feeling would offer any encouragement.
My attention was divided between my friend and traffic. In an effort to be a good listener, I frequently looked away from the road to make awkward eye-contact. I was still managing to keep up with the other drivers.
Finally, the anticipated confession came and my friend asked for advice and for me to pray for him. At the same time, I realized that there were flashing lights in my rear-view mirror. Immediately, I checked my speed. I was traveling at 83 miles an hour. I knew the limit for this stretch of road was 65. Part of me was pissed because I was conscious about keeping up with traffic, though I hadn’t bothered to actually pay attention to how fast I was going.
Of course, that made me wonder, “Why me, when we were all going so fast?”
★ ★ ★
We might find relief in hearing that our peers struggle with the same things we do, but we can’t use comparisons as measuring sticks for our own morality or holiness. Just as driving at the same speed as everyone else doesn’t get us out of a ticket, citing others’ failures doesn’t make our own any less significant.
Arguing with the officer about keeping up with traffic didn’t help my cause. Fortunately, Jesus is more gracious and He doesn’t write tickets.
**Paul addresses comparison in 2 Cor. 10…