Every Friday morning, I go into work a little later and I walk my daughter to daycare. We stop at the same coffee shop every week. She gets a three dollar banana, I get a triple espresso, and we take our time carving our way through the midtown-commuter-hive to her daycare.
Midtown Manhattan is crazy during business hours. It's crowded. It's loud. It's hot. It's chaotic. Everyone's in a hurry trying to get to where they need to be as quickly as possible. This is good because it keeps everything moving, but then there are times where something goes wrong and the rhythm is disrupted by a police car, an ambulance, or a fire truck.
Everyone obliges and gets out of the way... once they notice the emergency vehicle needing to get through the traffic. The downside is that the sirens on the emergency vehicles have to be even louder than the noise of the city in order to be heard.
This morning, as my daughter and I were walking out of the coffee shop onto Madison Avenue, a fire truck barreled around the corner and turned on its siren. Elise screamed, dropped her three dollar banana, covered her ears, and started writhing in pain. The siren was so loud that even my own adult-ears felt the sting. It was like knives were being shoved into my skull on either side! I dropped my espresso and put my hands over my daughter's ears until the fire truck passed.
I'll be honest. I was very angry. I considered tweeting at the mayor about the disregard of the fire department for the city's taxpayers, putting my child's wellbeing at risk. I thought about finding the firehouse where the truck was housed and telling the chief just exactly what I thought of his team and their disdain for my daughter's health and future.
The siren was so loud! Inappropriately loud!
It didn't need to be that loud... at least not for me.
Here's the thing. Fire trucks flip on their sirens for a very serious reason. Someone, somewhere else in midtown was in a crisis- likely even in mortal danger.
On the other hand, my daughter was standing on the street screaming in pain from the volume of the siren.
Q: Is it true that the siren was harmful to my daughter?
Q: Is it true that the siren had to be as loud as it was so that people inside of their cars could hear it in order to get out of the way so the fire truck could reach its destination and save lives?
Q: If my toddler's hearing is permanently damaged from the siren (and the many others that she witnesses in midtown on a weekly basis) is the volume justifiable because it resulted in the saving of another life?
A1 : For me, no. Of course not! It's my kid! My kid comes first.
A2: For the person that the fire truck saved? Yes, of course. They are someone else's kid or loved one. Their loved one comes first.
Is there such a thing as absolute truth? Is truth relative?
Context, friends is everything.
We don't like to talk about context because it forces us to have to deal with the glaring reality that we can't evaluate, judge, or classify people in herds as easily as we think we can.
Why? Because people are individuals.
It's entirely possible that what is right for one is wrong for another depending on their context.
Does that make truth relative?
No. It makes it something "other." It makes it less rigid. It makes it more like a living thing- something organic- something courageously adaptable- and less like a list chiseled into stone that's never open for discussion, debate, or questions.
Truth is alive. God is alive. The word of God is alive.
It is not absolute.
It's not relative either.
It's something far above and beyond that kind of logic. It is a living truth that meets us right where we are. It challenges each of us, in our own life context, to get busy working on ourselves and to allow others that same process-oriented-grace to develop and grow in their own walk with God.
Does that terrify you?
Does that bring you comfort?
It should also do that.