By D. Christian Nix
I am a card-carrying introvert (INFJ/P), but I have 'enjoyed' the splendid cathartic powers of commuting to explore my shadow sides. I have found myself shouting and banging my steering wheel – "WHY AREN'T WE MOVING – AAAAHHHH!!" I have said things to other people (who couldn't hear me), including little old ladies, that you wouldn't say to your worst enemy.
I have invented new expletives, combining the best of four-letter favorites into novel compound nouns. There is no telling what kind of maniacal fool I have looked like, faced pressed against the glass, slobbering and cursing at the sky or my nearest fellow commuter.
I'm certain there are two probable explanations for such inane behavior. Possibly, commuting is the apocalyptic machinery devolving humanity into a sub-species of zombies who will soon inhabit all major metropolitan areas. OR, slightly more likely, sometimes we just aren't very nice people, and acute stressors have the ability to bring out "Mr. Nasty" (obscure You've Got Mail reference).
The infamous theologian Calvin got one thing right, we're all depraved – some more than others. There's a nasty side to all of us – it's a reality of the human condition. Not even Jesus was immune from an occasional bout with "Mr. Nasty."
In Mark 7:24ff we find Jesus seeking a place of respite near Tyre – "He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it." Apparently Jesus needed a little 'downtime' – his ministry was intense, and I imagine there were plenty of times that the last thing he wanted to do was give another piece of himself away…even to the 'least of these.' Alas, his peace was interrupted by the "Syrophoenician woman" of Sunday School fame. In short, she needed help and Jesus blew her off – even insinuating that 'her kind' were 'dogs.'
After a bit of reproof from this awesome lady, he consents, but with what seems a half-hearted effort (something like, "yeah, yeah, you're daughter is healed, whatever…go away now"). Few passages have received more over-apologetic interpretative tactics to release Jesus from any impropriety. But, these are the kind of narrative moments that endear me to the Jesus of Nazareth – he's real, he's able to instruct his disciples about defilement coming from the heart in one breath, exhale that defiled state in the next, and then move on, committed to growing from that moment for the better (see the before and after in Mark 7). I'll pause to recognize that my Jesus may be less orthodox than yours…
Recently, while alerting a colleague that I would be late for a meeting due to traffic (it took me 3.5 hours to achieve what should have been a 1.5 hour drive), she said something to the effect of, "no problem, at least you aren't the poor person in the accident." In the midst of the 'jam' my response was lukewarm and cynical, expressing little concern for those with real problems.
She was exactly right and I was dead wrong. But, I'm glad she said what she did – it hasn't left my mind as I've continued my daily grind. My "Mr. Nasty" moments are an opportunity for growth – reminding me to operate with grace, even while operating my car. So, next time you cut me off on I-85, I'll try to wave…with all five fingers. Happy commuting!
–D. Christian Nix is a graduate of Georgia Tech and Mercer's McAfee School of Theology who blogs at disillusionedgospel.blogspot.com.
"As the Scriptures say, 'No one is righteous—not even one.'" – Romans 3:10 (NLT)
"So what if you can see the darkest side of me…Help me believe it's not the real me…Somebody help me tame this animal I have become…" – Animal I Have Become, Three Days Grace.