Adventures in Nametagging 2

May 14, 2003

[Veggie Tales: Are You My Neighbor?]Everyone’s in a hurry in the Monday morning commute. The on-ramp to Highway 85 has what’s called a “metering light” which lets one car at a time onto the highway: go – pause – go – pause. This keeps the traffic flowing pretty well on the highway, but causes a backup at the entrance. It’s like standing in line at Disneyland.

Normally it takes me 10 minutes to get through the line. I’ve become used to seeing cars cutting in front of each other, trying to get one car-length ahead, so they can hurry up and wait. But this past Monday, I saw cars going around an obstruction. The obstruction turned out to be a car that had died.

“I should help this guy,” I thought, but I couldn’t see how I could safely pull off. So I kept going, entering the on-ramp on my way to the metering light. But the thoughts nagged me: No one else is going to stop. Everyone’s in a hurry, hell-bent on starting their day, with no time for some poor schmuck who is stuck in the middle of the traffic flow. I should stop. But I can’t; I’m in the on-ramp, I’m committed now. But wouldn’t Jesus stop?

Somewhere in this self-talk came a dim vision of Veggie Tales, with their brilliant re-telling of the Good Samaritan. In their story, it wasn’t a priest and a Levite who passed by; it was folks in a hurry, who sing this song:

We’re busy, busy, dreadfully busy
You’ve no idea what we have to do.
Busy, busy, shockingly busy
Much, much too busy for you.

‘Cause we’re busy, busy, frightfully busy
More than a bumblebee, more than an ant.
Busy, busy, horribly busy
We’d love to help, but… we can’t!

Ta ta!

So I pulled off to the side, slapped on my nametag, walked back the on-ramp, and made my way to the stuck car. I asked the fellow what was wrong, and could I push him somewhere. Now at this point the guy didn’t know what I was driving, but he saw me walk from the on-ramp. He tells me he needs a jump, and instructs me to continue onto the highway, take the first exit, and come back around. I agree and tell him I’ll be back as soon as I can.

So I get back into the crawl of traffic in the on-ramp, get on the highway, take the first exit, come back on the regular roads, and pull up. In my car, my regular car. And as I help jump his car, and it’s probably pretty clear I’m no expert on cars, he asks, “You’re not with Triple-A? I saw your nametag and thought Triple-A had sent you.” No, I explain, I’m just this guy. He says, “Well thanks for helping me out, Jon.” We shake hands, and I ask him his name. “My name’s Ben,” he says. “I’m a student at DeAnza College, and I’m trying to get to my class. I guess that’s not happening.”

With his car started, I say God bless you, and am on my way. But then Ben quickly waves me down, and I pull up again. His car’s dead again. We try again. His car starts, but as soon as we disconnect the cables, it car sputters out. …But at this point the tow truck dispatched by Triple-A showed up. So he’s in good hands, and I drive away. But then I think, “Wait, where’s he going to be towed? Will he need a ride?” So I pull back around and park in a place where I can observe what’s going on. But it looks like the tow truck is taking him home. He’s fine, whew. And now I observe a strange thing: I can feel God’s love for this guy.

I think what I did was servant evangelism, minus the evangelism. And isn’t that in itself an act of the subversive, radical kingdom of God? I didn’t go in with an evangelistic agenda, and I think as a result, I felt God’s Spirit flowing towards this guy, a flow of love that I would not have experienced if I had not inconvenienced myself for his sake.

Did I mention that Ben is a black guy, and I’m not, and he had a bandana tied on his head, kind of L.A. gang style, and I felt a small touch of fear, but deliberately disregarded it?

My last pastor criticized servant evangelism as “not really effective. The main benefit is for the people who do it.” Well guess what, I need that benefit. I need God to change my heart.

Nametag series:

  1. “Front porches”
  2. Adventures in Nametagging
  3. Adventures in Nametagging 2
  4. Adventures in Nametagging 3
  5. The Dollar: A Nametag Adventure

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

7 responses to Adventures in Nametagging 2

  1. Great Thoughts Jon…
    It’s so funny that you slapped that nametag on.
    I question, however, the thought that this wasn’t evangelism. I think i beginning to come to grips with a picture of evangelism that isn’t compartmentalized rhetoric that we hope will spark mental loose, uncritical, mental ascent in people. I think I’m beginning to see it as you just modeled in life. Kinda goes back to Willard’s reinvention of the chrisian life that goes something like “God-centered lives of creative goodness.” I can’t really see the good samaritan pitching the Roman’s road to the half dead traveler–even if it had been available to him at the time. you modeled Christ and love, and if all sacrifice and true goodness finds its root in God, then this man experienced that. He may be challenged to help someone he runs across later.
    I too struggle with the question, “how can i somehow let this person know that my motives transcend the philanthropy that they may default to as my reason for extending my hands in love?” I don’t know man. The urgency of verbal solicitation of the Gospel is something i still struggle with, as long inherited by the evangelical movements. But as I look as Christ’s life, i don’t remember many instances of him preaching or telling stories to those whose need he was filling. It seemed like he was more inclined to help and listen to those in need–such as this man on the onramp, and reserve verbal communication for other places where conversations were ongoing and accepted.
    Got any thoughts on how to process sharing your story with someone when they only need a jump? (picked up a similar man on the side of the highway a few weeks ago, and struggled with this…)

  2. that was cool

  3. Sharing your story
    Good thoughts, Jared. As for how we share our story, I think we first have to realize that the story is greater than our telling of it: we live it. Our story crosses with other people’s stories (and more so if we’re working on expanding our Front Porches). I think one of our big challenges is to live our lives in a way that is worthy of the Story.
    How’s that for a postmodern psychobabble non-answer?

  4. What are Bob & Larry looking at?
    The way I cropped that image, it ended up lookin like Attack of the Giant Boob from Space.

  5. Wow! I can almost see this. I grew up right by 85 as it was being built (now I’m really dating myself!) near the intersection of 85 and 280. My friend’s parents had to sell their property to build that intersection. When it was first built we laughed at the big, empty freeway with no cars on it. There were apricot orchards all around back then. I grew up near Wright and Homestead, if you know where that is, and went to Homestead HS then De Anza.
    Enough nostalgia. I love this. And don’t you suppose there’s something going on in the spiritual realm in these kinds of acts? I don’t know if that’s Biblical, I hadn’t thought about it until just now, but if we are part of the “kingdom of God” which is at hand…perhaps we are doing something more than we know or can ever see when we make ourselves available to God like this. We ARE living the story.

  6. P.S. I was reeaaaalllly LITTLE when those freeways were built. I do remember it though. I was in about 3rd grade:)

  7. blogging pschobabble
    Another great sidestepping conversational tool is to say the following, to anyone, in any conversation:
    “That’s interesting, but what does that say about your life?”
    It almost always works, and pisses most people off.