A few weeks ago, I stood in line at the local courthouse; speeding ticket, driver’s license and proof of insurance in hand. While I waited, I sifted through all the possible explanations I could use to avoid parting with $162. On this particular Friday afternoon, the desk was short one clerk, and the line was long by about seven people. No doubt waiting was part of the punishment.The lady next to me had on a cute pair of pink sandals. I flashed her a smile. “I like your shoes.”
“Thanks,” she murmured.
“Why are you here?” I held up my own ticket.
“Ticket.” She held up a similar piece of paper and then turned away.
The guy behind me looked friendly, so I tried again. “Speeding ticket?” I waved mine in front of me.
He looked away without bothering to say anything.
Traffic court. Not a social venue.
I sighed and stared out the window. Back to excuses for driving 42 mph in a 30 mph zone. I missed the posted speed? I was in a hurry to get home to my kids? I was distracted? Tired? Anxious? Out of state company was due to arrive in an hour? Driving 30 down Park Road was impossibly insane? They were all pretty lame excuses.
When I finally reached the counter, the clerk explained my options in monotone, handed me forms to fill out, and directed me to another line. She didn’t even ask me why I did it. I gathered my paperwork and paused. “What’s my best option? Probation? Driving school? Court?”
The monotone again. “I can only give you your choices, ma’am.”
I smiled. “Surely, one’s better than the other?”
The clerk’s face was as empty as her voice. She pointed towards the security gate and yelled, “Next.”
When I reached the next window, I circled the box marked probation, handed over my debit card, and prayed I could drive well for 90 days.
On the way home, I made complete stops and set my cruise control to 30 mph on that slow stretch of road. I was on the offensive. It hurt to hand over my money. It made me think twice about following the rules, rules that were there for my protection, whether I thought so or not.
Just like God’s rules.
When I break them, I have to live with the consequences of my actions. I have to pay the price. I’ve learned that while God’s forgiveness is vast and His love for me is overwhelming, the consequences for my actions still rest on me. I think I’ve figured out why. If there isn’t a price to my sin, if there isn’t any pain, I don’t change. I wish I could be obedient every time. But I’m not. I wish I could avoid painful consequences. But I can’t. But I am learning and thankfully, God never puts me on probation.