It’s all them others, innit?

Have you noticed that when you’re driving, there are lots and lots of bad drivers? They’re everywhere – people who don’t signal, or exceed the limit, or pass cyclists too closely, or brake suddenly, or nip through when the traffic lights are turning to red. Hundreds of them! Not you, of course. And not me, obviously. Just everyone else. But when you meet a friend and you talk about driving they (and you) are never ever one of those bad drivers! You never meet someone who says “Oh, I’m a terrible driver, selfish and distracted.” So, where do they all live? Weird, eh?

I thought about that strange paradox this morning when we were on the beach. Some of us have perfect dogs, absolutely perfect. But there are lots of people who have badly behaved, uncontrolled, naughty spoilt pooches. Not me, of course, and none of my friends. Just like bad drivers, it’s “All them others, innit?”

Well, guess what? I’m fessing up. My dogs are not perfect. And I am not a perfect dog walker. And Percy is a small and very handsome dog but with delusions of majesty and invincibility. Here he is, keeping watch over his kingdom:

He’s usually as good as gold, but he does own the beach and occasionally he will take offence at the presence of a big dog on a lead. Children, people, dogs running free, horses, the RNLI tractor, gangs playing football, crows pecking along the water line, frisbees and the Sunday morning surf club….. they’re all fine. No problem. But if a Labrador or a German Shepherd is attached to his owner by a lead, Percy is going to be outraged, off-the-scale incensed. He stands stock still, his head swivels, eyes focus, his tail stiffens. I know the signs and I yelp “No, Percy!” but it’s too late – he’s off! Deaf to everything but his own indignation, he thunders across the sand and barks and barks and barks so that I have to flounder over, exasperated and apologising and trying (usually vainly) to get him away. Of course his mum, Pip, tries to join in, yip-yapping from a safe distance. Mayhem! For the big dog it must be like being buzzed by wasps. The chaos never lasts long because, being all mouth and trousers, he soon tires and wanders off, puffing his chest out and swaggering with masculine satisfaction.

So, confession time – sometimes one of them bad drivers is me, because no one’s perfect. And sometimes one of them bad dogs, is Percy. And sometimes one of them silly dog owners is me. I think it’s a huge relief when we can let go of the need to be perfect and admit that , like the rest of the world, we are not entirely blameless and wise and circumspect. Sometimes we fail at life’s mini challenges.

I thought about this when I came home and tuned in to the local church for the Sunday morning service. The person giving the announcements quoted from Colossians 3:13 and that made me open my Bible and read the whole chapter. What a gift! What a lovely, warm, and gentle guiding hand. Listen, listen, listen….. this is what I read as the sun broke through, in a wonderful Sunday morning golden moment

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Wow. That’s more soothing than a day in a hut tub.

And as I pondered (isn’t that an old fashioned word? Makes me sound like a nun in a prayer closet) that little chunk of kindly wisdom, I realised again how liberating it is to follow Christ and to know, know, KNOW for certain sure that even when we stumble or fall, we are loved and accepted. We don’t have to be perfect, we don’t have to present a flawless face to the world, we can be totally honest and know that however often we do the wrong thing, or however daft we are, we are loved. And this is the thing, listen, listen, it’s that love, which is God’s love, extended to us that enables us to extend his love to others.

But I often fail at the love thing. It’s not always ‘them others.’ Mostly, in my life, it’s me.

As I drove homewards yesterday, I pulled in to a passing place to let a whole stream of traffic come past the other way and as I waited there was a blackbird just a few feet away from me. He was beautiful! His feathers so black, his beak so yellow, his eyes so bright, his little chest puffed out, such a glorious little creature. That’s when prayer bursts out of us. Prayer and praise. And moments like this morning when we find the word of God alive and present in the everyday.

SOS Save Our Souls.

Two days ago, four experienced kayakers (is that a word? It is now) set off from Cardigan to go Northwards towards Aberporth. It was the Spring tide, probably the highest and most powerful of the year, and the waves were crazy. Where the sea meets the estuary there are several undertows or strong currents, and the weather, although bright, was unsettled with gusting winds. Regardless of all that, being well equipped and experienced, this little group set out. Within minutes, at the mouth of the estuary, all four were in trouble. The two women capsized, but managed to get back in their crafts and pumped them out. In the strong currents the men were taken out beyond the bar and unable to return to help them as one woman’s kayak was swept into the river and the other towards the rocks. One of the group, realising that no one could return to safety against the tide, sent out a Mayday and then our little lifeboat station came alive – this is a rural area so many of the crew have to travel several miles, driving down lanes and through the village, but even so it was only a matter of minutes before the two boats were launched. The smaller inshore boat rescued the women and the bigger boat (Atlantic 85) went out towards Cardigan Island to find the men. They had been swept way out, and were helpless. A helicopter was on the scene by now but wasn’t needed. The women were taken to hospital with secondary drowning and the men were brought safely ashore.

18 people were involved in the RNLI launch, there were ambulances, police cars, and of course the helicopter. The cost of that rescue ran into thousands, probably more than ten thousand pounds, but the RNLI will never rebuke anyone they rescue. They will never give them a well deserved lecture, or show any impatience with them. They believe that to do so would make people in dangerous situations hesitate before calling for help, and then they would be in even more danger. They don’t blame, or judge, they rescue.

Why does that remind me of Jesus? Why does it make me wonder about the attitude of us, the church? Are we too quick with disapproval? Do we risk making those who need rescue reluctant to call out for help when they need it? I wonder.

Anyway, thank you to the RNLI. To the ordinary men and women who turn out whatever the weather, whatever the situation, to save the lives of imperfect people.

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