I was up early and feeling very pleased with myself that I didn’t hit the snooze button even once. I had time to sit and have coffee and devotion time with the Lord. And then I did other responsible things, too: I emptied the dishwasher and packed my lunch. I only tried on three outfits before deciding I was dressed for the day, which meant fewer pieces of abandoned clothing sprawled on the bed, rejected. By 7:45, I was in my car driving to Bridgehaven – right on time. These things were all very adult of me. I mean, I was feeling like a competent and productive human—the latest buzz word for this right now is “ADULTING”. I was adulting. Really well. In fact, I was killing the adulting thing.
And it continued…I got in my car and fastened my seatbelt. I put my phone out of reach and adjusted my mirrors. I headed down 42nd Street, my usual route, when, like an apparition, red and blue lights began to flash in my rear view mirror.
There are few things that instantly make you feel like a child. As the realization that I was being pulled over sunk in (Who, me? Are you flashing at me or on your way to another call?), the curtain of shame began to lower. I sagged. As I safely pulled over (turn signal, of course, slow and steady), my shoulders began to droop, my countenance dulled, anxiety seeped in, and I began to take on the posture of a child who’d been caught in an act of disobedience.
As I sat there waiting for the policeman to get out of his shiny, black car, I sat perfectly still, sensing that if I made a move I would be in even more trouble. And here’s my take on what happened…
“Do you know what you’ve done young lady?”
“Yes sir, well, I’m not really sure, sir.”
“You were speeding! You were going five miles over the speed limit. You know better than that, don’t you.”
“We don’t speed. You’ve been told over and over. We put signs up to remind you. Now, let me see your driver’s license. Okay. You just sit here and think about what you’ve done.”
Officer Wilson goes back to his car to talk to the other adults over the radio and decide what my punishment should be.
I notice others driving by and around us, and I feel they are saying to one another, “Naaa-naaa…she got in trouble…she got in trouble.”
I think about reaching for my phone to project a nonchalant image about being in time out, and I imagine a voice saying, “No toys. You just sit there with your eyes straight ahead. You are in TIME OUT, young lady.” So I inch my hand over under the line of sight, trying not to noticeably change my posture, and check my email.
Officer Wilson has evidently decided what my punishment will be and is on his way back to my chamber of guilt. I quickly tuck my phone under my leg.
“I’ve decided that you can leave Time Out. But I’m going to have to punish you. You need to learn the consequences of your actions. No allowance for you, young lady until this $87 is paid off. But I’m going to be watching you. You be on your best behavior!”
As I resumed my drive to work (not a tick over 55 mph), I began to contrast condemnation and conviction, and how God is clearly no policeman. They share some characteristics: they both want me and others to be safe, I regard both as authorities in my life, they both have the ability to extend grace or law. But in more and greater ways, they are so different.
A policeman might imply, “Shame on you. Sorry, it’s the law.”
God says there is no shame, only forgiveness.
“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14 NIV
A policeman might say, “Here is your penance. Pay money.”
God says the price has been paid.
“I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” Isaiah. 44:22
A policeman might say, “Sit here and think about what you have done.”
God says, “I can work with this. I will help you do better.”
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” Romans 8:28
Please don’t get me wrong – God knows we are a culture and society that needs to be policed, and He has very clearly directed us to obey the laws of the land. But while pondering these things, it struck me again what a contrast there is between condemnation and conviction. Condemnation tells you what a bad person you are and reminds you of your sins while conviction points to the sovereignty of God and draws your heart to His in the most gracious and urgent way. He is the loving Father who disciplines His child without breaking the spirit; He brings us to our feet again but doesn’t let go until we are on the right path; He allows natural consequences while showing us hopeful outcomes.
He makes me feel like a beloved child, even when I should be adulting.
And by the way, none of this “deep” theological thinking changed the fact that I still had to go home and tell my husband about the ticket. 😉