I’ve had a bit of a road rage problem. It peeves me when I need to throw on the brakes because another vehicle pulled out in front of me. Sadly, too often my reaction has been to tailgate, eventually pass and possibly toot my horn. I tell myself that I’m helping the other motorist see his error so he might become a better driver—or she, as the case may be. My dear wife is not convinced.
Recently an incident of this sort happened right in town. My little village of 900. I drive a bright blue car. People know who I am and that I’m a pastor with the Mennonite church. I was feeling convicted. Unfortunately, this time it was because I was afraid I might have been “caught” by the eyes around me.
The good news is that I’d recently been introduced to an idea called the Learning Circle. This is a tool used by Mike Breen and the 3DM team who provide resources to guide churches in building discipling cultures.
The Learning Circle invites us to constantly ask, “What is God saying to me?” and “What am I going to do about it?” as we encounter the usual circumstances of daily life. It leads the disciple through repentance and into belief using a cycle of observation, reflection, discussion, planning, accountability and, ultimately, action.
I had observed the arrogant, impatient reaction of my road rage. Reflecting on it, I wondered what it was that made me so anxious. Why did I only feel convicted when others may have seen me rather than out in the countryside? What does this say about how I’m influenced by the view of others rather than God’s view of me? This clearly was an area that I needed to grow in.
The Learning Circle directed me to the next step: discussion. I’m thankful that I have a group of fellow believers, a “huddle,” in which we ask one another the tough questions. We encourage and challenge one another. And so I shared my road rage encounter with them. By probing deeper, these trusted friends helped expose more of what God needed to reshape in me. They helped me unearth what I ought to do next.
The obvious plan is to respond with patience and kindness the next time someone pulls out in front of me. I’ll take a deep breath and ease off the gas, giving the other driver lots of space. Truth be told, we’ll probably end up together at the next stop sign anyway! Sounds easy. But reality is a different story. The works of the flesh are so ingrained in me.
I need accountability. Not only do the members of my “huddle” know, my wife and my co-pastor also know about my plan to grow in this area. When we’re driving together, and someone pulls out in front of me, I feel my blood pressure rise as I fill with angry impatience. I look over, and there’s my wife smiling at me, waiting to see how I respond. This accountability is a gift. I know that if I deviate from my plan of holiness I’m going to have to account for it.
Through all of this, my aim is to become more like Jesus. Often the process of discipleship can feel frustratingly slow. However, through the gift of the Learning Circle I’m learning to process these life events by asking, “What is God saying?” and “What am I going to do about it?”
Rather than coast through life without reflection, it’s a choice to take various life moments and allow God to shape me through them. This time it was road rage. Next time it may be my attitude toward my neighbour, or my eating habits. Whatever the situation, Jesus wants to form me further as his disciple.
Ryan Jantzi pastors Kingsfield-Zurich Mennonite Church, Ont., where he’s fascinated with exploring the interplay between traditional church and new expressions of mission.