One of the hardest things we do as Christians is to carry our faith out of our churches and out of our homes and into the ordinary, mundane events that make up daily life. Ordinary, mundane, and in our modern world, often irritating, frustrating events that can make us lose our cool.
Who among us has not gritted teeth in frustrated anger as we are cut off again by a driver going what we’re sure is way too fast in rush hour traffic? Who does not get annoyed when the person in front of us in the checkout line suddenly cannot find their wallet, even though they’ve had plenty of time to chat on their cell phone while our ice cream is melting? Irritating in the moment, sure. Life threatening? No.
We could humor ourselves and give in to the frustration, becoming short-tempered and cranky. We have the right, don’t we? But then we realize we’re wearing our crucifix and everyone can see it. Our car has a Christian themed bumper sticker. How great a witness are we giving if we are unapologetically cranky? If we treat other people as obstacles to our day instead of fellow human beings?
Being human, we are all too susceptible to these mini traps. And we can spiral into that anger without even being aware of how it snuck up on us. So what to do about it? We can call to mind Colossians 3:13 and try to bear with one another, forgiving faults as we have been forgiven, for who has not accidentally cut someone off on the freeway, lost their wallet in the bottom of their purse, or committed some other small fault ?
That’s a great beginning to undoing the cycle of anger. It can stop us cold in mid-rant. But how do we keep ourselves from getting worked up to begin with?
The answer for me has been to develop an attitude of prayer. As I leave my home, I begin my Rosary, and continue on through the mysteries for the day as I go about my business. I am continually praying, even though I may be “interrupted” by the need to speak to someone, or the need to concentrate on something like entering a pin number at a cash register.
But as I’ve practiced this walkabout prayer of mine, I’ve uncovered a surprising well spring of grace. Freeway driving can be a nerve-wracking, sometimes frightening experience where I live. But if I am praying my Rosary or the Divine Mercy chaplet as I drive, I’m concentrating emotionally on the prayers and not on myself.
Have you ever tried to be angry while saying a Hail Mary? It’s just not possible. Instead of being angry at the mother who can’t seem to control those screaming children, I think how stressed she must be and pray for her to find the patience and calm she needs.
This type of prayer does not replace praying quietly and meditatively at home, which should still also be done. But it does bring a quiet and peace to my soul as I am out and about. That is what we want people to see. We want them to be drawn to the peace and love of Christ which they hopefully see in our hearts and way of being.