I must confess I have hated tailgaters. I ‘m not talking about tailgaters as in party-before-the-football-game type people. I’m talking about people who make it a practice of driving in their vehicle too closely behind me. Yes I know that followers of Jesus are not supposed to hate anyone, not even our enemies. But I would like to invent an electronic digital sign to place on the rear of my car that could be activated at just such a time that says “BACK OFF!”
It seems like it happens to me frequently on the 55 mph stretch of road between my home and church. It happened again on Tuesday this week. Since I was once stopped on that road and given a warning, I am very speed limit conscious. Nearly everyone pushes the limit in the morning. Usually I hope the car will just pass me. This car was following me so closely that I felt pressured to speed up a little over the limit.. He or she continued right on my bumper.
When this happens it unnerves me and I find myself looking in my rear view mirror more than looking out my windshield. That of course is not wise. Obviously it is more important to be focused on where I am going than on what’s behind me and where I’ve been.
Now I’ve tried a variety of things to deal with this. I know the rule of thumb is for a trailing vehicle to observe the 3 second rule. Therefore I have touched my brakes to politely signal they are too close. I have slowed down or pulled off the road so they will go around.
And if I’m honest I’ll admit there are times when I’ve prayed they will be stopped and ticketed after they’ve gone around me and sped ahead. And invariably when I pull up beside them at the next light I can’t help but feeling smug about it, because all their hurry has not made a bit of difference. Lord have mercy.
I was thinking about this and wondering why this bugs me so. It has been a long standing thing with me. And as a teacher I cannot help but tease out some life lessons from all this. So I began to ask myself, what causes a person to be so concerned, or in this case so obsessed with what is behind them? It is like the compulsion to look back to one’s past which can literally keep a person from looking ahead and even endanger their future. And then I had a what is termed in Christian counseling circles, a theophostic moment.
It suddenly dawned on me that my own preoccupation with tailgaters might have an unresolved root cause. Then I realized it could be tied to the time just weeks before Susan and I were married when we were rear-ended while stopped behind a city bus.
That was a traumatic experience for both of us. It totaled my really cool VW bug convertible and left both of us with severe whiplash. Susan’s dog jumped out of the car and ran away. The driver of the jalopy that hit us was an uninsured hippie with a last name I will never forget, Appenzeller.
When I sought to get his address, he said I could find him on the Nicollet Mall, the Haight Ashbury of Minneapolis in the 70’s. With no car and no collision insurance it left Susan and I in a tough place financially with a wedding approaching. And we ended up canceling our honeymoon plans for Ireland.
Now all this came back to me this week. Hmmm, no wonder I hate tailgaters and I’ve always got my eyes on them. A tailgater could turn into another Appenzeller! In fact, maybe that hippie and not every tailgater is the guy I REALLY hate
Well that was a major wake up call to self ministry! It was an opportunity to practice what I preach and declare forgiveness; and with Jesus’ help, close that door to a painful past. May the Lord bless Mr.Appenzeller wherever he may be!
Hopefully now my animosity for tailgaters may be abated and replaced by Christ’s love. Now I will pray a blessing on them rather than curse them. And I can spend less time looking in my rear view mirror and more time focusing on what’s ahead.
It has been said that those who continue to war with their past may end up forfeiting their future. That dear friend, is true behind the wheel as it is in life.
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