I have a new Uber story for y’all. For the past few months I have been doing most of my Ubering out on the coast in the Daytona Beach/New Smyrna Beach area. Needless to say, the craziness of Orlando wore me out. And to be honest, Ubering people who are on vacation is way more fun than Ubering people to and from work. I had an experience just over a month ago that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I was waiting for a rider out in New Smyrna Beach when I heard my phone “ping” and I saw that I had a 45+ minute ride request. These requests really get your adrenaline going because you know you are going to make decent money. Any ride over 45 minutes is a keeper. I pulled up to the beachfront bar and waited. No one came out. I called the rider and got sent to voicemail. The dopamine rush that I had felt just a few minutes ago was slowly evaporating. And then my phone rang. A woman with slurred speech told me she would be out in a few minutes. I waited patiently, a little unsure of what I was in for… (I gave an Uber ride to two drunk ladies last fall and it involved a woman standing on my front seat, opening up the sun roof, and yelling “spank me!” as we cruised down the free way at 75 mph listening to Sir Mix A Lot’s classic Baby Got Back… I’ve never gripped 10 and 2 on my steeling wheel so hard in my life. And yes. That story is true. You can’t make that stuff up.)
Much like the experience I had last fall, this ride began with two drunk women in their mid fifties, sprawled out in my back seat singing classic 80’s tunes at the top of their lungs. About ten minutes into the ride one of the women leaned up close behind me and said, “You know what honey?” I not so enthusiastically yelled, “What?” She screamed, “I believe in a God who loves you!” I laughed… and then shook my head. I yelled, “I do too!” But in that moment I was annoyed. While I was thankful for the money I would be getting, I found my heart hardening towards these two women who had indulged in three too many screw drivers after church. I felt this way for the next thirty minutes, until I dropped one of the women off at her parent’s home and had another twenty minutes to drive until I could get my last passenger home safely.
At this point the alcohol was beginning to wear off. Thank God. The lady said, “Thank you, honey.” The music had faded at this point and I calmly said, “Absolutely.” And then she started to cry. With tears rolling down her cheeks she said, “I know a God who loves me… and he made me good… I’m a good person who made a bad decision… and that’s why I went to jail.”
And then she whispered, “but I’m still a good person.”
My heart softened. I replied, “I think you’re a good person too.”
She went on to tell me about a marriage that had fallen apart. Her tears continued to roll down her cheeks as she shared about the physical abuse she endured and didn’t say anything about because, “Back then you just didn’t say anything.” And then she told me about her friend whom she first met in jail just over a year ago. When they first met she told her friend, “Once you are out – I’d love to hang out with you.” I was afforded the opportunity of driving these two friends on their reunion date.
As I pulled up to her house she said, “Wait, let me give you a hug before you leave.” I gave her a hug. She handed me a $20 tip and said, “I wish you the best with everything. God bless you.” I smiled and quietly said, “Thank you! You too.”
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this experience. Even though the words were slurred there was something powerful about what she said:
“I’m a good person, who made a bad decision. But I’m still a good person”
In my own life I often find myself frustrated, let down, and down right depressed about some of the decisions I make. Sometimes they are pretty “small” bad decisions: Chik-Fil-A at 9:45pm, avoiding the gym at all costs, saying a not-so-choice word when someone cuts me off in traffic. But sometimes they are pretty “big” bad decisions. I think one of the reasons the woman’s words stood out to me so much was because for the majority of my adult life I have wrestled with the depression that my plethora of bad decisions have made me an inherently bad person. I walk around beating my self up for all the mistakes I’ve made. I toss and turn anxiously in bed at night because I can’t seem to escape the fear of who I am becoming or of who I’ll never become.
Can you relate?
If I had to guess there’s a chance you may be wrestling with some bad decisions you’ve made. Maybe you’re a “small” bad decision kind of person: You struggle with self-discipline, you say too many bad words, you lose your temper, or you have a tendency of having one too many gin & tonics on a Tuesday night. Maybe you’re a “big” bad decision person: You’re like the guy who I met at a bar in Alaska a few years ago. I asked him why he moved to Alaska and he replied, “Well to be honest with you, I came home and found my wife in bed with another man so I killed him…. Had to run away” (True story), Maybe you’re an addict and you can’t seem to escape the tight grasp that alcohol, pornography, or opioids have on your life. Maybe you stole more money than you could ever repay. Maybe you broke someone’s heart and it feels like you’ll never be able to love or be loved again.
I’m reminded of the story where the Pharisees throw a woman in front of Jesus after catching her in the act of adultery. Jesus looks at the men who are standing tall convinced that they are making the community a better place by catching this whore in the act. Jesus kneels down and writes something in the sand. He stands up and says, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And then he starts writing in the sand again. The Pharisees slowly back away, shoulders sagging and heads hanging low in frustration and embarrassment. Then Jesus looks gently into the woman’s eyes and he says, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She quietly whispers, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus say’s the words I suspect we are all dying to hear:
“Than neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
What if it’s true?
What if you really are a good person who has made some bad decisions?
What if Jesus didn’t die on the cross just so that you could get to heaven someday, but what if he died on the cross so that you could be set free from your bad decisions so that you could live out of your goodness?
What if Jesus is looking into your eyes right now and he is saying, “Than neither do I condemn you. Go and live a life of love knowing that I created you very good!
I used to worry that if I actually believed there was something good about me I would become prideful and arrogant. I’m now beginning to realize that pride and arrogance only show up when I am trying to run away and hide from my brokenness and my bad decisions.
This isn’t just some feel good positive psychology. This isn’t a pat on the back and a hearty “You’re good buddy!” This is the truth.
We all make bad decisions from time to time. But because of Jesus and his grace, his love, and his persistent pursuit of our hearts, our bad decisions don’t rob us of our inherent fearfully and wonderfully made goodness.
“I know a God who loves me… and he made me good… I’m a good person who made a bad decision…or two… or three… but I’m still a good person. And so are you.”