Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A lesson from the heart of Africa. . .

After traveling all over the world and living among a number of cultures, I’ve learned to enjoy the differences in people. It’s definitely taught me to be more patient and understanding with others, but there is still one thing here that really grates on my nerves.

People who cut in line.

And it happens all the time. Now granted, I’m a bit of a rule follower, but in my mind, no matter where you are, orderly lines help everyone get done faster. It just makes sense.

Last week, we had to take Gabriel and one of his classmates to South Africa to catch their flight back to boarding school. Now typically, crossing the boarder takes about an hour. The longest we’ve ever had to wait was two hours and sometimes we’re lucky enough to get through in a half an hour or so.

This time, though, our luck apparently ran out.

We were driving through Mozambique toward South Africa when ten kilometers from the boarder we hit a long line of cars. Now there is another way into South Africa via Swaziland, so Scott went and talked to the police to find out what was going on. The police assured us that they had stopped the traffic in order to help control how many people went through the boarder at a time, but the wait shouldn’t be longer than an hour. And it would definitely be shorter than going through Swaziland. The boys even went up to the top of the hill and sure enough. The line stopped not too far in front of us, allowing the police to monitor how many cars went through the boarder as many people were returning to SA after their holiday along the Moz coastline.

Realistically, I decided that the hour the police had quoted us would probably turn into two hours, but that was okay. The sky was cloudy for the moment, meaning it was a bit cooler, and we were all in good spirits.

We began to realize, though, as the line finally moved, that the first traffic control stop was only one of many.

In total, it ended up taking eight hours to drive that ten kilometers and cross both boarders. But the biggest frustration for me wasn’t the long lines, the hot sun, or the fact that there were no bathrooms nearby.

For me, it was the drivers who decided that they didn’t need to wait in line. It became a constant trickle of cars passing us on the shoulder. Apparently, they decided that if they turned on their hazard lights it was okay.

Well, it wasn’t okay. At least not to me. The police had our line of cars blocked with spikes on the road, but the spikes didn’t reach the cars that continued to pass on the shoulder. So they just kept going.

In all, I’m sure there were at least two hundred cars that made their way to the boarder via the shoulder while the rest of us waited in line. I’m also sure that their impatience probably added an hour or two to our own wait.

I found myself grumbling. Who were they to think they were so important that they could cut to the head of the line ahead of all of us who were “following the rules.” I got angry. They had no right to cut in line which in turn added to the wait of those of us who were staying in line.

But then I started wondering about my own attitude. And wondering what God thought? Was the bigger “sin” those who were breaking the traffic rules and cutting in line or me or my growing anger and impatience toward them?


The question began to bother me.

It’s an easy trap to fall into (at least for me). Other people’s bad behavior justifies my impatience, anger (okay, and maybe even the envy I felt because I wasn’t at the front of the line like they were.) It’s easy for most of us to avoid the “big” sins, I mean it’s not as if I’ve murdered anyone lately. But the Bible doesn’t really classify sins. To God sin is sin no matter what it is.

Paul said in Romans one that “Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior.”


I’ve thought a lot about the trip over the past week and my attitude. It became a reminder to me of how God looks at the heart, and how I react to situations around me. It’s not wrong to get frustrated and even angry at a situation, but my response to that situation—and my heart—is just as important to God.

Paul was continually encouraging the Christians to grow in their faith. He wrote in Galatians that, “. . .the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. . .”

As we begin a new year, may our hearts be open to the Spirit continuing to work in us to produce more of these godly attributes in our lives.

Be a blessing today!



  1. Lisa, thanks for an honest and personal example of how easily our own attitudes can sour whenever we deal with other people. Your story reminds me of when God used a similar situation to convict me of my own wrong heart attitude. Back when we served in the Dominican Republic, I taught a weekly ladies' Bible study. Every week I'd spend time in prayer before leaving to drive across town to where the study was held. And every week, on my way, I would fuss and fume about the rude behavior of other drivers. Then one day as I prepared to teach on James 3:1-12, the Lord "showed" me that I was the person being referred to in verses 9-10: "With it (the tongue) we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men . . . from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing . . ." I would like to say that cured me of my fussing and fuming whenever I drove in the DR, but it didn't completely, although I did try harder not to let the other drivers ruin my day by their rude behavior.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing, Teri! It's just like the splinter and the log that Jesus talked about. It's always easier--at least for me--to see other peoples mistakes than our own!

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