Friday, July 03, 2009

Monday Morning Quarterback

A week ago on Monday, I drove to Richardson to spend a few hours with my mother.  I brought her one of her favorite meals and we sat at the kitchen table chatting and enjoying our food.  On the kitchen counter sits a small TV, and she, as is normal to her, had it tuned to an all-day news channel, but with the sound off.  At one point, I glanced at it and saw in the corner of the screen this: "Police Chase in Dallas."  I asked her to turn on the sound. For the next 45 minutes, we sat transfixed as we viewed through the lens of a helicopter camera an extremely dangerous car chase all over the Dallas freeways.  By then, I was running late for another appointment, but didn't want to get on the freeway because of what was happening.  

As we watched, the driver turned off the freeway and ended up on Plano Road, heading northbound--toward the neighborhood of my mother's house.  He ended up being stopped after running a red light when a pick-up truck, the driver totally unaware of the drama unfolding in front of him, smashed into the felon's car.

Shortly after the end of the car chase, I headed out to my next destination.  I flipped on a news channel, curious myself about the outcome and concerned for the driver of the pick-up (he was not seriously hurt, thank goodness).  As it happens, I hit one of those talk shows that gives people a chance to voice their opinions.  I was fascinated by the amount of criticism that was heaped upon those giving chase to the felon.  Several people said, "Well, the officer could have cut him off earlier.  Makes no sense why he didn't do this."  The implication is, "If I had been that officer, I certainly would have done this!"

Hmm. . . I wonder about that.  We who were watching had the advantage of sitting in our comfortable homes, viewing everything from a bird's eye perspective, seeing much more than the officers in the high speed chase were able to see.  We had the advantage of hearing the commentator describe the location and the surroundings.  The officers on the chase had almost none of this information.  There are major communication difficulties between those on the chase and those watching the chase making it very difficult to keep the officers on the ground fully informed.  We also were not endangering our own lives or the lives of others by our decisions.  We just watched--and many decided that they, as watchers, could do this much better than the participants themselves.

I wonder.  I wonder how well they would have done, with limited knowledge, with their own adrenaline racing, with awareness of the danger to many--how well would they have done with the two brief opportunities that did arise where the run-away driver might have been cut off?  I'm betting that few, if any, would have done better.  And probably all would have caused much greater harm than actually did take place.  

But it is much easier to play Monday morning quarterback than it is to put on the gear and get out there on the field, take the hits, avoid the blockers, find the running holes and the receivers, and actually move that ball down the field while playing within the rules.

I ache for our political leaders, especially those who hold their offices with great integrity and personal sacrifice.  Every one of them has hundreds, thousands, even millions of Monday morning quarterbacks, screaming at them that they are idiots making stupid decisions.  I sit with my pastoral colleagues as we comfort one another.  Each of us chooses in the best ways we can to walk in holiness and obedience to God and leadership to our churches.  Each of us seeks constant improvement in life and service and looks for helpful critique and guidance.  And each of us has experienced attack that has simply left us breathless from those who know they could do our work far, far better than we do it ourselves. Frankly, before I became a clergy person, I did this quite often myself. Too many conversations about my church and its leaders started with, "If only he/she would do that this way . . ."

Monday morning quarterbacking springs from basic human nature--all of us deep down inside think we know better than God does what is best for us.  That is the nature of the separation between God and humankind.  We dictate to God how God may act, where God may act, for whom God may show love and compassion.  The more we do that, the more disappointed we are with God because we are not getting our own way.  

And then there is the joy of taking the descending way--the way of Jesus, who endured the shame, suffered the cross, offered forgiveness to all, and saw the resurrection on the other side of it.  The resurrection says, "God wins!!!!!!"  And when God wins, morning does dawn in hope and reconciliation and new life.  It really doesn't get any better than this!

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