After my plane chirped onto the tarmac yesterday afternoon I rode the Enterprise shuttle (sorry, not the Star Trek kind) to the rental joint and picked up my car. Two or three minutes out of the lot, I saw it: the Randy’s Donuts monolith… the only thing in that establishment that’s baked, not fried. Baked by the sun, that is. (The first picture is mine). Randy’s Donuts appeared in Iron Man II, as you can see below: That’d be Nick Fury getting Tony Stark’s attention with the line, “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to exit the donut.” It also made a bouncy appearance as it rolled for its life in 2012, last summer’s end of the world epic starring John Cussack.
Ironically, both cameos were about disasters: For Tony Stark, a personal meltdown, and for 2012, a global meltdown. I should have known that merely tasting the $1 cinnamon bun and apple fritter would send me along the same path.
I decided to go to the beach. After all, LAX is just eight miles from the beach, roundabout. So off I went. Well, it took forty five minutes to get there through construction crippled traffic, and then the twenty thousand other people with the same idea had gotten there first, so I couldn’t find a parking spot. No beach for me. I was calm, but miffed. And the miff-o-meter needle had risen from green to yellow on the heat gauge.
Giving up on beaching myself, I opted to attempt the forty five minute drive to Pasadena to check in to my hotel. Using my iPhone and the Google Maps app, which works just fine when you’re not weaving through a kaleidascopic mid afternoon traffic juggernaut going seventy miles an hour, I managed to miss a turn or two or three, at which point I (not the car) blew a gasket and I finally understood where road rage comes from.
It comes from me.
I shouldn’t have opened my mouth, but I did—and I won’t repeat everything that came out of it. I will say that among other things, I mentioned (at the top of my lungs) that I really didn’t want to be spending my time in California locked in a car making compensatory U-turns and fighting eternal traffic. I wanted to BE somewhere.
At which point I realized that the whole thing was a setup.
Yup. God wanted me to spew, not because he likes ugliness, but because it had to come out. You may not know this, but lots of pastors struggle with anger. And a whole lot of pastors shipwreck their lives and families because they don’t deal with it properly. Let me put it this way: For most pastors, our entire lives are an exercise in frustration. It’s true. The guy we counselled doesn’t take our advice. The young couple we married gets a divorce. The vision eating our bones never materializes. People criticize us for the littlest things… continually. Our leaders never quite get it. The big sunday idea we planned falls flat. The altar call doesn’t call anyone. Our families wish they had more of us. The church wishes it had more of us. The needs are bottomless. People treat us differently, see us differently, talk to us differently. Sometimes that’s respect, but many times it makes us a punching bag—people say and do things to pastors they wouldn’t dream of doing to anyone else. But we’re not allowed to be hurt by that. We’re supposed to take it on the chin over and over again, noble and perfect, and flow with inhuman grace and patience instead. We live in a constant tension between what we know can be and what really is. And never the two shall meet. I really don’t want to be spending my time on earth locked in an office making compensatory U-turns and fighting eternal traffic. I want to BE somewhere visionary.
So the stubborn LA freeway did me a favour. It popped my soulish cork, and out came the vitrol. Later on, I flopped onto my hotel bed and wrote in my journal, venting my anger line after line. I wrote until I wasn’t angry anymore. Wrote until my rage was eclipsed by questions. Wrote questions until my questions—or at least some of them—began to lead to answers. Stopped writing. Meditated until the answer fragments came from love.
More surgery today, I know it. I’m meeting with David Parker from Desert Vineyard at 11:30am for lunch. I want to mine his wisdom about living in missional community. Jesus, teach me!