Thursday, July 8, 2010

No Fish Here

The lady almost hit us. Then she blew her horn at us. I was making a right turn at the light. She was making a left. Legally, I should have been able to go through the intersection first without incurring anyone's wrath. But here we were--Five Corners, in Uniontown vernacular--and I was being honked at, and by the look on her face, yelled at quite unkindly.

But it was my turn to go. I'm right. I said as we continued down the road.
What happened, Mommy?
Oh, that woman is angry because I went first, but it was my turn.
It is a double lane road heading east. She had swung into the lane on my right and before the next stoplight crossed again into my lane. Apparently she was in a hurry.
That was when I noticed it--the fish--stuck to her trunk.

That is why I don't have a fish on the van. I remarked. (Why do I remark within hearing of a four-year old?)
Why don't we have a fish? What is the fish for? She asked.
Because I don't want one. The fish is a symbol for Jesus; it tells other people that we are followers of Jesus.
We follow Jesus. We should have a fish. It is so simple for her.
Yes, Abigail we follow Jesus, but sometimes Mommy doesn't drive as well as she should, and sometimes Mommy gets frustrated with other people when we are driving and doesn't act like a follower of Jesus.
Our vehicles don't sport the fish. You know the fish that announce to the world that you are a fisherman under His authority, bearing the holy fruit of patience, love, kindness and self-control.

Because if me behind the wheel is the one picture of Christ you get today, I'm pretty sure it isn't going to be to His glory. I haul around a baby squealing and a pre-schooler talking; I am distracted. I haul around a baby screaming and a pre-schooler screaming; I am angry. I haul around a baby awake in the middle of the night and a pre-schooler awake at the first hints of dawn; I am tired.

Do I think my life has to be put together and wonderful to claim Him? Do I think that claiming Christ means that I must never make an honest mistake, deliberately force my own way, or negligently behave selfishly? Do I think that sticking a fish to my tailgate means that I must be perfect?

One big resounding NO. Striving to the blessing of His name and for the joy of love, yes. But perfection not so much.

But I wonder if sporting the fish auto fashion, broadcasting my allegiance to the Master of fishermen, is the best way I have of reaching others. If I am unkind to the cashier at T@rget, I know where to find her to make it right. If I am spiteful to the waitress at Scotts, I know where to make amends. If I smile and allow someone the right-of-way without a fish, is my witness somehow compromised since I am making no claim to discipleship?  If I squeeze the van between two others in the left lane because the old lady is holding me up with a fish, is my witness somehow compromised when the claim is made? There is no way to reach a point of reconciliation with the elderly woman peeking over the dash of her Cadillac when she makes the left while I speed through the intersection.

So I wonder about drive-by evangelism. A sort of auto-club of believers making their way from home to school to church to shopping centers across the United States, declaring affinity for a Carpenter leader of fishermen on the dirt roads and the highways. Is it accomplishing anything?

And I don't have good answers for these questions. And I worry that the answer I gave Abigail turns this relationship created through the blood of grace poured out into a religion of works. And I don't like all these issues unsettled. But I remember the grace, my name written in His palm, and I will pray His grace in the interactions I have with the little ones in the backseat, the workers in the places we travel to, and the ones we share the road with. And we still won't have a fish.

Disclaimer: I am sure that I was not completely innocent at the light. Perhaps I waited after the light turned green long enough for the woman to believe I was giving her the right-of-way. Perhaps, I was answering a question about the beginnings of the world or listening to a story of the birth of her tenth child and so didn't proceed in a timely manner. I know for sure that making the comment I did in front of my daughter implying that the lady should not have a fish, was absolutely inappropriate. The conversation with Abigail just made me think and sometimes what makes me think makes it to this space, not as a comment on either the lady I am posting about or anyone else who adorns their automobiles with fish, but as a way for me to ponder what I really believe about being a child in the Kingdom.


  1. I, too, do not bear 'the fish' upon my vehicle. for the same reason as you. I've recently heard them referred as 'flying fish' (and that was at church) due to seeing the fish whiz by, probably in the fast lane.

    I doubt they really draw others to Him, but then again, the Lord can certainly use anything! :)

  2. I love your disclaimer.
    You know, I often notice said fish. Usually not in polite traffic situations. I have paused and thought many times..."they have a fish", "they were mean", "they were rude."
    Then I am quickly reminded of the time that we were "rude", passing on the LEFT, running red lights, etc...because I was in full-blown labor.
    No matter how frustrated I get at other drivers, I always seem to remember that day.
    You never know what is going on inside a vehicle!
    Could be labor, could be a plethera (sp?! - you realize I am typing without spell check!) of things. Most likely, it's another mother of a preschooler = - )!