"And they laughed him to scorn..." (from Mark 5:40)
The "Him" in that sentence is the Lord Jesus Christ. The people who laughed him to scorn (believe it or not) were a group of "professional mourners"! You'd have to read the whole passage to appreciate it. I chose that short quote to illustrate the point that since a group also "laughed me to scorn" today, I guess I'm in good company!
Today, right around 12:30 in the early afternoon, I was driving in downtown Framingham. You literally never
know know what you're going to encounter driving or walking in downtown
Framingham. It's a complicated mess of streets, traffic lights, and
railroad tracks, and all sorts of cars and trucks and pedestrians. The
one thing driving in downtown Framingham is not is relaxing!
Something that can really make things go from bad to worse in downtown
Framingham traffic is a construction site in the middle of the road. I
know not all of you are familiar with Framingham. For those of you who aren't, I guess you'll just have to use your imagination. There was some sort of Verizon telephone work going on. It was not on one of the poles. Rather, there was a manhole cover open, and a big Verizon utility truck in the middle of the road with several workers milling around and doing one thing or another. This was on Union Avenue, just a very short distance from the Memorial Building and the heart of downtown. The truck was at the intersection of Proctor Street and William Welch Way (where the police station is). That's a very busy and confusing spot. I was planning to stop at the downtown post office and check to see if there was any mail in my post office box. In order to do this, I would need to take a left turn onto Proctor Street. (I was heading from the Memorial Building area toward the
direction of Bowditch Field on Union Avenue.) I put on my left turn
signal. At that very moment, a white van was coming in the opposite direction and the driver was signaling for her own left turn onto William Welch Way by the police station. I stopped and made a point to stick my hand out the window and gesture for her to turn. One of the workers watched me do this. When she was done, I went into my own left turn to get onto Proctor Street and head down to the post office. I did instantly encounter a PROBLEM! As I was making the turn just past the big utility truck, I saw that I was actually somewhat past Proctor Street. This was not going to be a quick and easy turn! Proctor Street was just to the left of where I needed it to be! I started making the sharpest left turn I could possibly make, and I was still aiming into the sidewalk and just shy of Proctor Street.
It gets worse.
"Hey, what do you think you're doing?!"
I looked and what to my wondering eyes did appear but a middle-aged police officer! That was about that last person I wanted to see in that moment. The look on his face was one of total disrespect and disgust. The look said, "You're the stupidest, poorest excuse for a man I've ever seen, and you're the worst driver I've ever seen, you moron!" No, he did not say that, but the look did.
I was now starting to back up slightly to try to reposition to make the turn.
"Stop backing up," he said with even more disrespect and disgust, "you're going to hit a car!"
He then said, "Just drive through the parking lot and onto the street!"
Now, there was a Brazilian restaurant's parking lot which I knew from the very beginning (of realizing I was in trouble) that I could easily have driven through to avoid the problem, but I am of the understanding that it's wrong and frankly illegal to just drive through a private parking lot for your own convenience. Yes, it was nice to just drive through the parking lot, onto Proctor Street, and then on to the post office. The worst part was what I heard as I pulled into that parking lot.
"Did you SEE that GUY?!" the cop bellowed out and the macho utility workers all had a big, macho belly laughs over it.
Yeah, I was laughed to scorn.
Now, think about this: Is it not the cop's job to manage and direct traffic coming each way when working a detail at a utility work site like that? (For those of you who do not live in Massachusetts, this whole scenario may seem very strange because in almost every other state, there are "flagmen" and "flagwomen" who work such details and who generally do a great job at it. The police unions in Massachusetts have a sweetheart deal requiring police to be hired to work all such details- at big money.) I never saw a cop until I was well into trying to make that left turn. So much could have been done to make this situation easier for the driver. Had I seen a cop and then put my signal on, if he did not want me to make that turn he could have said, "I'm sorry sir but you can't take that turn right now." Or, he could have said, "Sir, just drive through the parking lot to the street." Or, they could have posted a bright orange "sandwich board" kind of sign reading, "NO LEFT TURN", or "NO TURNS DUE TO CONSTRUCTION". All of that would have solved the problem. If the cop was supposed to give me guidance as a driver coming on an unexpected and confusing situation, he pretty much failed at it. And, there was certainly no reason to treat me, a guy who has not had a traffic accident since 1985 (and that one was not my fault) and who has had very few traffic tickets as though I were such a terrible driver and a moron!
I honestly found myself giving this a lot of thought today. I guess you have to have the mind of a pastor or a writer (and of course, I've been both) to think of this, but I began thinking of how evangelical Christians treat "unsaved" and "unchurched" visitors to our churches who don't have a clue about spiritual things or about the evangelical church culture and "language". Sometimes we do a great job welcoming them. But sadly, other times, we (perhaps without meaning to) treat them with disrespect and disgust when one enthusiastically remarks that she's "pro choice" or "loves Howard Stern" or asks when told, "Turn to the Book of Romans"- "Is that in the OLD Testament?"
I remember hearing a story of a guy bringing an "unsaved" friend who was in recovery to the exterior door of an evangelical church on a Sunday morning. The "unsaved" friend had a lit cigarette in his mouth.
"Put that OUT!" the "greeter" at the door barked with disgust- well, with the same attitude the cop had with me today!
Now, listen, I don't favor smoking on church grounds or inside a church facility, but there is a kind and sensitive way to handle a situation like this so that the person does not feel "rejected" and like a total jerk. I honestly don't think that visitor ever came back to that church.
Yes, I was laughed to scorn today. But it did give me some stuff to think about.