Seeing Myself in the Rear-View Mirror

By Tom Gilson Published on June 28, 2018

I saw myself in my rearview mirror on my way to men’s Bible study one day last week.

It’s an early morning study group; we meet every Thursday at 6:15 a.m. My drive across Highway 63, coming out of Lebanon, Ohio, takes a sharp climb up a long hill about a mile west of town. I was on my way up that hill when I looked in the mirror and saw that a cluster of cars about a quarter-mile back. I could tell they were falling further and further behind as we climbed.

“That’s an awfully slow car leading that parade,” I thought to myself. “I’m sure glad I’m not behind that driver.”

It’s a one lane road going both directions, and a truck route to boot. That can make it a frustrating drive, when you get stuck behind a semi struggling to keep its speed while climbing the steep hill. I’ve often muttered to myself about the “ugly truck” in front of me. My family knows I have no fondness for “ugly trucks,” which is simply any truck that’s in front of me and blocking my view of the road.

This time, though, it wasn’t a truck slowing the group down, just an ordinary passenger car. I wondered what the drivers behind it were thinking, knowing that this person was poking along for no visible reason at all. They had to have been frustrated. They were all tailgating pretty badly; a sure sign they were unhappy with the pace.

Anger on the Highway

They fell so far behind I lost sight of them for a while. But there’s a traffic light in the middle of a long plateau on top of that hill. And wouldn’t you know it? They all caught up with me while I was waiting for that light to turn green. Turns out I hadn’t really gained an inch on them. “There’s a lesson there,” I thought to myself. I had another lesson coming.

I turned left there, and all went straight or turned right except for one — a pickup truck, actually. A big one. And when I made my left turn, that big bad guy was on my bumper. I accelerated at a pretty good clip. And that big trucked stayed on my bumper. Aggressive. Pushing me. I pushed my speed up well over the 55 mph speed limit, and he stayed right there, headlights glaring, way too close to me.

Thankfully that only lasted about a half mile until he turned into his place of work. That’s when I knew for sure what was going on. He didn’t need me to get out of his way so he could zoom on down the road. He was taking anger out on me, over the slow driver he’d been stuck behind earlier.

Seeing Myself Back There

I breathed a sigh of relief when he turned off, especially since from that point on I more or less had the road to myself. The next part of the drive has more hills, more curves, and even a spot or two where I’ve learned I need to watch for water ponding on the road, since we’ve had some rain lately. So for a few minutes I was more occupied with driving than I was with thinking about angry bad aggressive truck drivers.

But the road straightened out, and I let my thoughts drift back to what I just experienced. And I asked myself the question  I would’ve been safer not to have asked. “How did I know that driver was angry? How did I know he was taking his anger out on me?”

The realization dawned on me. “It’s because I saw myself back there.” The reason I knew what was going on with him was because I’ve done the same thing. Not every time, but sometimes.

You could almost say I’d been watching myself in my rear view mirror.

On my way home from that Bible study, someone cut me off so badly, I had to climb on my brakes to keep from hitting him. I flashed my brights, just to make sure he knew that I was there after all. Then I backed off. I didn’t want him seeing me in his rearview mirror the same way I’d just seen myself.

God’s Mirror For Us to Use

We use mirrors all the time to check our appearance. We use them to check the situation behind us on the road. But there’s one in particular God gives us to check our attitudes and our actions:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing. (James:1-22-25, RSV)

A good look in the mirror can do us a lot of good.

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