I was out of my league and didn’t know it. Piloting a 50-foot monstrosity had mandated a written test and one cursory drive around the block. As a college-age taskforce volunteer I was full of imagined proficiency.
So I felt no sense of impending doom while in the driver’s seat of a school bus chauffeuring students on a trip to the county courthouse. Downtown meant narrow, crowded streets and daunting maneuvers. But I had successfully navigated the maze and dropped students off for their visit. Now I threaded my way through traffic to pick them back up. Spotting them lined up on the sidewalk to the side of the building, I turned the corner, cut it too close and felt the rear wheels bump up and over the curb.
This provided great entertainment, a moment of levity, for the waiting ones, who applauded and whooped their approval. With sheepish grin, I pulled over, opened the door and watched my students file back onto the bus. The comments came thick and fast: “Nice job, Mr. V!” “I want to be able to drive like you when I get my license.” “Do you charge for roller coaster rides?”
The well-dressed man at the end of the line was an unexpected surprise. So was his pointed invitation to join him down at street level. “Let me show you something,” he said, as he walked back toward the corner. “I was standing right here at the curb when you came around the corner," he continued. "If I hadn’t jumped back, if I had been an elderly or disabled person, you would have run me over. By the way, I'm the assistant district attorney here.”
Student faces were plastered against the bus windows, eagerly enjoying the confrontation. This was far more interesting than what they had witnessed inside the courtroom.
But a cold sweat was all I could feel. Thankfully the attorney took pity on me. “Take this as a warning,” he admonished. “Remember, you’re responsible for both the people inside the vehicle and those outside.”
I recall that experience with chagrin. It wasn’t my first or last entry on the “stupid” list. But I’ve often wondered about the fine between stupid and tragic. What if it had been an elderly lady in a walker at that curb? Today, what if I sneak a glance at my mobile phone just as a child runs into the street or forget to turn off the stove burner at home? What if?
I’m sure there have been countless times through the years when my thoughtless actions or careless words have physically, mentally or spiritually hurt someone. My failures give me pause. Why would God want to use someone as unreliable as me?
And then I remember Peter — lovable, impetuous Peter … the one who verbally and vehemently denied his Lord. How would that rate in magnitude on the “stupid” list? And yet Jesus tasked him with being a shepherd of His sheep. The name Peter, Petros in Greek, means a small piece of rock. Like us, Peter was a rolling stone under foot until firmly connected to the foundation Rock, Jesus Christ.
Got some regrets? Some uncomfortable memories? Jesus has a job for you too. His discipling process turns deny-ers into disciples, tears into triumph, resignation into redemption, sinners into saints.