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Commuters do it five times a week: Why there are no Christians on I-85

By D. Christian Nix

As a veteran of the northern exurb to downtown Atlanta commute I have had ample opportunity to embrace the deepest darkest places of my soul. There's nothing like a good traffic jam to elicit white-knuckled rage from the calmest, quietest soul.
If you are a celebrant of Festivus (obscure Seinfeld reference), commuting in metro Atlanta will provide you with a voluminous list of grievances – inexplicable traffic jams, that guy who 'cuts you off,' the GA 400 commuters (usually driving a Lexus, Porsche or Mini – jealous much?) who believe it is their god-given right to immediately merge left across six lanes once they enter I-85, erratic out-of-towners staring at 'them tall shiny things,' and those degenerates who do the speed limit in the left lane.

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.


Reader Comments (1)

There is a simple solution, actually two. One: Move closer to downtown, buy an old house and fix it up and avoid the commute. Two: Find work in a small town and live there (or move to a small town and find work there. Jesus said, if a part of your life causes you to sin, get rid of it. I think that applies in spades to angry commuters on the freeways -- which at rush hour are anything but free!

Jun 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterArce

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