Traffic Jams and Learning to Give the Right of Way

Driving on the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia can be an exercise in patience like none other.  Huge trucks carrying loose gravel and logs, new Lexus SUVs, tuk tuks, motos, bikes, and food carts, all trying to get to their destination.  There’s a new overpass system being built at a crazy intersection. When it’s done, we hope that it’ll make travel from one side of the city to the other much quicker.  For now, it’s a mess.

Last week I had to take a tuk tuk to a friend’s house, and as I sat in the fumes of sitting traffic, I watched as three roads merged into one small lane. Impossible.  No one wanted to give a single inch. Motos scrunched in to every available spot.  Any gap was quickly overtaken, leaving us at a stand still as no one wanted to let anyone in front of them.  People just stared at each other.  What should have taken 15-20 minutes at most, took an hour.  Nothing is quite as frustrating as knowing your destination is so close, but yet, you aren’t moving. 

My anger is a lot like that traffic jam.  I don’t want to give a single inch.  I crowd the space, not allowing for real movement in the conversation, bringing it to a stand still out of hurt and stubbornness.  I want to be first and I want to be right.  I feel like it’s my right to be in that spot.

This past year, I read the book Uprooting Anger: Biblical Help for a Common Problem and this is how the author, Robert D. Jones, described what anger should be:

1) It reacts against actual sin (as biblically defined)
2) It focuses on God and His concerns (not me and my concerns)
3) It coexists with other godly qualities and expresses itself in godly ways

Yikes.  My anger is definitely not those things most of the time.  Much of my anger is based in my own selfishness and definitely about my own concerns.  It’s hard to get things flowing again, when I’ve succumbed to anger.  I can simmer and simmer, thinking of all these ways to explain how I am right and the other person is wrong.  I can let my anger explode, especially towards my children, as I try to assert my control over them.  But neither simmering nor exploding is helpful.  In fact, both do the opposite of what God really desires for us.

So how do we end the traffic jam caused by our anger?  Realize you are not the center of the universe.  Create some space, even when you feel like pushing back. And most importantly, welcome Christ into that space and seek reconciliation.  Whether it’s after you’ve yelled at your child for putting on their shoes SOOO slowly or huffed at a roommate who left dirty dishes in the sink once again, ask God to root out that selfishness in your own heart and replace it with a heart that focuses on Him and His concerns.

Have you ever encountered someone who has let anger settle in his or her heart and bitterness has taken root? It’s not pretty. It’s all consuming.  I have seen people experience the same difficult circumstances and come out two completely different ways. Unless anger follows the points above, there can be no real movement in your heart–and out of the abundance of our heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6: 45).

I pray daily for a heart that flows out of an abundance of His love and mercy.  I often fail, but He is ever gracious.  Can we not be gracious too?

Photo Credit: Jonathan Kos-Read via Compfight cc

4 Comments

  1. Amy Young April 30, 2014

    Oh I see myself a bit too much in here 🙂 … I wonder what it is about traffic that can trigger the “IF I GIVE ANYTHING, I WILL DIE” and so I’m willing to die going up that hill. Stupidly. I once heard that if we could just create enough space for our brains to kick in (so we’re not so reactive), we’d make better decisions. Danielle, thanks for sharing. I always look forward to your posts!

  2. Elizabeth April 30, 2014

    Um, might this be why sometimes our family chooses to order takeout instead of getting out, or why we sometimes take tuk tuks instead of driving? I deal with this issue by choosing not to drive (chicken, I know). My husband has never even remotely had road rage in America, but he gets super tense here, worried about all the people he might accidentally hurt on these crowded roads. Nobody following the “normal natural right and good” rules from America. And, when it takes an hour to get somewhere it should only take 20 minutes. Ug. This traffic is a definite trigger for all of us, I think. It’s often the small things that get to us — the smell of the trash piles, ants taking over our bed, or the neighbors throwing their trash at our door, or people starting cooking fires with rubber tires just outside my windows AGAIN.

    I have always heard that moving overseas brings out all your bad stuff. And that is scary. And it is true — to a point. Yes, stuff that stays conveniently hidden in our passport country will come out under all this stress. But who says that’s a bad thing? I am learning that it’s a good thing if I will let God teach about why it’s there, and change me too.

    Interestingly enough, my husband also claims, when told that your inner junk comes out overseas (I won’t deny that it’s true!), that your good stuff comes out too. The gifts God wants to use in us, He can bring out, He can show us what He wants us to do or how to serve Him. So it’s sort of like a magnifying glass on both ends — good and bad.

    So, uh, oops, that comment took a turn away from the original intent! But it’s what I think of when I think of anger, and how God has been dealing with my junk lately. Which is sometimes anger, and sometimes anxiety, but always something that He can help me with.

  3. M'Lynn May 1, 2014

    I’m most angry with my kids when I try to control them. Sometimes #1 and I get frustrated with #2 because we’re trying to control the situation (we’re so alike, #1 and I).  I’ll turn to #1 and say “hey! I know! I’m frustrated, too. But, do we have a controller for him?” Somehow the image of #2 being controlled by a remote like a little toy car defuses the situation for us.  I should say this to myself next time I’m in the back seat of a taxi and he’s taking the dumbest route possible (according to me…haha).  I’m not in control! But, God is! Good news! 🙂

  4. Elisa May 1, 2014

    Danielle, thank you for this post. So much of this struck me.  I loved the the way you used the idea of a traffic jam in Asia where no one is budging to give us an amazing mental picture of anger.  What I’m taking away for me today though is the idea of diseased roots (bitterness, anger, etc.) getting deep down into our hearts and CONSUMING us. It reminded me of one of my favorite passages of recent: Heb. 12:11-15. Again, so blessed and spurred on by this post.

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