It was an overcast morning and we were bouncing down the road in the van piled with school-bound children. It's a fifteen or so minute stretch between the gates of our property and the gate of the building where our oldest students do their book learning.
A fifteen minute stretch of dodging stray dogs, bikes, monks collecting gifts, tillers (yes, they ride them down the main roads), and motorbikes. None of it really bothers me. Occasionally we even pass someone walking their cows and we barely give it a second glance. It's all just become normal now and so there's nothing particularly noteworthy about the trip to town.
Except for the motorbikes.
I don't know if I've mentioned it here before but I hate them. And by hate I mean detest, despise, loathe, abhor. I'm not exaggerating or being dramatic. And I'm not even saying my feelings are justified, but they are what they are. I'm simply admitting it.
Yes, they're cheaper to get around on. Sure, they're easier to get where you're wanting to go if it happens to be that you want to go to the front of the line at a red light, because that's totally acceptable here ... if you're on a motorbike, you're allowed to (barely) squeeze your way through lanes of traffic so you can get to the front, enabling you to go first.
It's dangerous and horrifying to watch and yet nobody has asked my opinion, so the (perhaps unspoken) rule stands. Motorbikes first.
But another thing motorbikes do is to ignore the turn signals of the vehicles around them. And so on this particular morning, I encountered just such a situation.
We arrived in front of the gate of the school and the time had come to turn so I could drive the children to the front of the building. I did what you do in a case like that, and I turned on my blinker to indicate my intentions to turn right. The traffic was clear in the oncoming lane and so I proceeded into the turn.
I did this at the exact same time a person on a motorbike decided they couldn't wait, and the only sensible option was for them to hustle into the lane to my right and whiz past me.
The only reason I didn't hit, and possibly kill them (no helmet), was because of the conditioning that has become instinctual ... to check for exactly such motorbikes. I saw him coming and so I stopped, avoiding a collision that he'd have most likely considered my fault if he survived.
I sucked in a breath, bit my tongue, and honestly forgot to thank God for the near-miss that saved the man's life. Again, I'm only being honest. We pray every single time we pull a vehicle beyond the gates of our property, but I'm 100% guilty of not always remembering to pray in thanksgiving when I see God answer those prayers during our journey. This was one of those times.
I simply bit back frustrated words of how crazy it is that these people on motorbikes so often seem to either have a death wish or think they're invincible. I pasted on a smile, told all our high schoolers I'd be back at the end of the day to pick them up, and went on with my morning.
Hours passed and I did what I do in a day. It's all pretty mundane so I won't bore you with those details. But ultimately, I headed back out onto the road to pick them up around 3pm.
Again, I dodged all the things as I bumped down the road. My mind was occupied with the particulars of my life and I wasn't giving a lot of thought to what was happening around me other than to work the obstacle course with the precision that comes with practice. I needed to swing into the 7-11 to purchase some coconut water for the sick and feverish kids we had at home that day and so I made the u-turn and then prepared to turn into the parking lot.
Again, I flipped on my blinker, this time the one indicating that I'd be navigating to the left. Not having to cross over traffic, and having nothing in front of me to prevent my immediate turn, I began my descent on the 7-11 parking area. And about halfway through that turn, a girl on a motorbike decided her safest course of action was to suddenly go out around me, ON THE LEFT. There was literally an inch or two (and an unseen angel) who prevented a second helmet-less motorbike from being nailed by my vehicle.
This time my restraint was less than valiant. I actually yelled out into the empty vehicle, "Why do you all want to die so badly????? And why are you all determined to make it be me who causes your death?????"
A second episode of forgetting to simply be thankful that God answered my prayer from about 15 minutes earlier as I sat in my idling vehicle before pulling out. But this time I gave voice to my frustration and fear. Sometimes the shock of saying the thing aloud helps you hear it for what it is better than when you rehearse it silently in your head.
It's uglier when it hangs in the air.
What I heard in my words was a lack of love. It was a lack of the sense and understanding of my mission here. It was self feeding on self.
I want my trips to town to be easy, uninterrupted spaces of time where I get to shift into autopilot and think or disconnect from thinking. Either way, the people around me are an unwelcome distraction. Rather than seeing a motorbike rider who launches herself in front of my moving vehicle as an indication that God is asking me to pray specifically for that person in that exact moment, I see that person as a nuisance in the midst of my missionary experience.
If ever I stop writing out my thoughts and the stories of my experience, I'll probably shrivel up and die. Because often God puts a thought in my mind to write out for the purpose of sharing, but I'll really have no idea where the thought will end up going. Sometimes, in its baby stage, it seems entirely incomplete and underdeveloped and I think it can't possibly be worth fighting to find the words to express it.
But then I do and I experience God teaching me a lesson while my own fingers type out the details of the thing He most wants me to see in that moment.
I write for me, I just realized. I write for me rather than for you. If you get something from it, praise God. But as I typed this entry, I saw myself as I am, a little more clearly. I didn't like it, but I needed to see it.
And I was reminded (AGAIN!) that we're all called to be mission-minded, Christ-centered people in the middle of the most mundane moments of our lives. It doesn't mean we should fake being super-spiritual, or overplay the part. But it means we're to be genuinely aware of God presence right there beside us, in every situation.
Even after typing all that out, I still feel disdain for motorbikes. But I can see more clearly that my frustration stems from the fear of hurting people. And the selfish side of me, which is (unfortunately) still alive and thriving far too often, is afraid of having to live with the guilt of having hurt someone, even if it was unintentional.
The reality is we like to see the shiny, glossy sides of ourselves. We like to show others the parts of us that will cause good thoughts and words to issue forth from them with regard to us. But it's in the moments where I can see so clearly how un-missionary I really am at my core, that I realize that's the opposite of what I want my life and character to actually be.
And without that realization, I'd have no real motivation to press in closer to the only One who can change me, with my permission. Because I do desperately want to be changed.