People refer to my former home in Southwest Florida as “the Paradise Coast” (Okay, mainly realtors!). And October is the time of year the breezes start to get a little more comfortable and we open our doors and let out a sigh of relief.
That is, until we see the car trucks.
These are the huge Mack Trucks carrying stacks and stacks of cars. Cars with northern license plates, owned by “snow birds.” Their delivery is an ominous sign of “things to come,” as HG Wells put it…
Back north, my old friends have the changing of the seasons and gentle turning of the leaves.
Here, we have the coming of “Season” (capital “S”) and the arrival of thousands of disoriented, occasionally grumpy residents.
Please don’t get me wrong—these are not all “bad people.” It’s just that for the next six months we will cram thousands more people into the same roadways—roads over which we’ve held dominance the past six months.<
My favorite restaurants that I used to casually saunter into the summer are now virtually inaccessible. “A two hour wait? That’s okay, honey. I think we’ll head home and eat cereal instead.”
Starbucks is now a lost cause. Half the people enter through the exit, breaking in line. The other half think the baked goods display is a place to ponder the deeper existential worth of muffins verses cookies. “Hurry up, lady! Don’t you see the crazed caffeine addicts behind you, shaking and in need of a fix?”
One night, we were at the yogurt shop, where our three babies had experimented wearing yogurt as opposed to merely ingesting it. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched as one gentleman reached into the case of garnishments and extracted a handful of small cookies, meant as toppings for paying customers. He began munching them casually as he walked out. No sale. Amazing.
Now add thousands of drivers who are here so seldom they aren’t really sure where they’re going. Next, throw in smart phones, which give you a diversion while you sit at the stop light. End result? Lines of cars sitting at a green light while the person in front enjoys a video of a cat stuck in a box. Priceless.
I need to make a confession here…
I am the guy laying on his horn in that line behind you at the green light. I am also the one fidgeting for my caffeine fix while you search for the muffin of your wildest dreams at Starbucks. I am the guy giving you the death stare as you walk out of the yogurt shop with a handful of stolen iced graham crackers.
Those are the times I remember that “It’s only really murder if they find a body…and there’s still some space in the backyard for a new flowerbed.”
Go ahead. Judge me. I can take it.
Psychologists call this “hurry sickness”: the struggle to do more in less time, even when we don’t need to. It’s the voice saying, “How dare you cause me to be seven seconds later pulling out from this light?!” That selfishness makes the world a colder place, even down in Florida where we try to escape the cold.
So how do we deal with this “season” of irritation?
First, for Christians that irritable feeling may actually be God reminding us that we need time with him in prayer. Remember prayer? It’s that lost spiritual art that takes your focus off the petty things and helps you see your life from God’s limitless point of view. Somehow in that light, the wait at the Starbucks becomes insignificant.
There’s nothing more we need than time with God in prayer…and nothing more we avoid.
We’re way too busy checking our Facebook status (at the stoplight) or scrolling email. But the voice of God says to slow down, to take our time, and to stop allowing the selfishness of others to offend us and steal our joy.
If we’re ever going to hear God, we have to listen in prayer. He will not shout us down, but instead speaks in a “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). When we spend time with him, we are transformed. We’re no longer the impatient, selfish people we often see around us. We become altogether different, in order to make a difference in this world.
One of the good things about our society’s present darkness is how very easy it is for those who really pray to shine, to stand out. I’m finding the smallest gestures of kindness stick out like a sore thumb. Just try being the nice guy in public—you’ll look like a knight in shining armor. And you’ll be able to accomplish that because of an overwhelming peace working within you that, in spite of the chaos, continually speaks into your spirit, “It’s okay. I’ve got this.”
Jesus warned us the world would get darker. But it’s not our place to complain about the darkness.
Our job is to light a match in the midst of it.
So next time you honk your horn at me, I’m going to pretend I have one of those “Honk if you love Jesus” stickers on my bumper. In return, I’ll give you the “one way sign” as you drive past.
Dave Gipson is a husband, father of 4 adopted children and one biological child, former foster parent, and pastor at Naples Family Church of Naples, FL. An author, Dave's new highly acclaimed book, "The Seven Surprises: Everyday Epiphanies on Being a Better Human Being," is now available. He also contributes regular commentaries to the Naples Daily News as well as other international publications. He has served churches for the last 25+ years, from Florida to the inner-city of Chicago. Rev. Gipson holds his ordination in the Southern Baptist denomination, and has two earned Masters degrees in Religion and Divinity. Read more at http://davegipson.net.Follow him on Twitter at @realdavegipson.