This happens to me all the time. I read something in the Bible, for example, that resonates with me. It might be a lesson about how I should act or treat others. Or, it might be a teaching about how I should deal with God.
I learn it. I forget it. Later, something happens and it comes back to me. And I think about how much pain I could have avoided, if only I had remembered the lesson. That's one of the reasons I keep a journal. I write these learnings down and periodically review them. But I don't do it all of the time. That's when I end up making the same mistake twice- or three or four times.
I was cycling this morning; about a 35 mile ride. Typically, I pass through a park near our home to get to the main road. This morning, I struggled up a hill as I rode through the park. A jogger crossed in front of me, with his dog unleashed, trailing behind him. The dog stopped to do what dogs do on stop signs and other vertical objects. He spotted me and then began circling me.
It had been a rough week and I wasn't in the best of moods. Further, as I self-righteously reminded myself, the city of Brentwood has a leash law. This guy was clearly violating the law. Although a citizen's arrest was impractical, I decided to take it upon myself to let the guy know he was breaking the law- sort of a Barney Fife-esque move.
The guy was incredibly gracious. He simply apologized and put Buster, or Fido, or whatever his name was on the leash. I rode on and immediately felt bad about my rudeness.
Perhaps its the lawyer in me, or simply the jerk, but at times I feel compelled to set people straight. I abide by the laws and therefore, so should they. But here's the thing. Humans, by definition, are fallible. We make mistakes. Daily. Every single one of us. Unforgiveable mistakes.
The thing about Christians, however, is that we believe that we are forgiven thanks to Jesus' life, death and resurrection. Unfortunately, sometimes we don't always practice what we preach. We get so caught up in evangelism that we forget that our lives should be living proof of what we believe.
As I cycled, I silently prayed. I prayed that God would somehow teach me to curb my tongue. I thought about the fact that my tendency to fight for truth, justice and the American way (at least in my own mind, based upon my own view of what is right) was probably my greatest weakness. This is a regular event for me. I asked God to somehow get through my thick skull and help me to change my ways.
I was doing about 17 or 18 mph and at that moment a red wasp landed on my right calf. I've been buzzed by wasps hundreds of times on rides, but this one was different. He landed, almost deliberately, and lighted on my calf (generally, a wasp wil buzz around, lose interest, and move on). I looked at him and he looked at me, almost defiantly. Then he stung me.
If you've ever been stung, you know what I'm talking about. Because I was pedaling, there wasn't much I could do except take it. After what seemed like a a minute, I managed to swat him off me. As I write this about two hours later, my leg is still throbbing.
As a pedaled along, trying to regain my composure, it struck me. The wasp had acted exactly the way I had acted a few minutes before. I lashed out and stung a fellow human because I could. At that moment, I was the most important thing in the universe, at least as to myself. I was self-righteous and I gave the poor guy a piece of my mind.
Here's the thing. We come into this world with a deficit balance. God gave us our lives. Sure, we can do a lot with what He has given us. But it all ultimately is His. We can never repay Him. We can only respond to him with thankfulness and love. Christians aren't self-righteous. Christians are righteous because of something Jesus did for us. So, self-righteousness is in reality a false conclusion. I don't have the right to set anyone straight, about anything.
I've learned that lesson a number of times. I've forgotten it almost as many. But today, thanks to the punctation mark of a painful wasp sting, somehow I don't think I'll forget it any time soon.