There are few feelings worse than that sinking feeling you get when you’re driving, you look up, and you see the lights of a police car flashing behind you. When you pull to the right and the car zooms around you, you have this total sense of relief, but when he follows you to the side of the road, you have that sickening sense of doom; you’ve been caught.
I generally try not to speed (much) and I’m not an angry driver weaving in and out of traffic, texting and screaming at people who don’t know I’m suddenly psychotic when I sit behind the wheel of a car. However, I have broken a few motor vehicle laws over the past 23 years of driving and on four occasions (three of them in 18 months) I was pulled over for said violations; and thankfully only had a ticket stick on one of those.
The first time I was pulled over occurred at 11:45 at night. I was taking my friend, Luree, home when I rolled through a stop sign at 5mph. It was 11:45 at night, there was no one at the 4-way stop, in fact the police officer was still 1/4 mile from the stop, but the truth was -- I never made a complete stop. Suddenly the lights were on, my adrenaline was pumping and I found myself on the receiving end of a $145 ticket. Even worse, I knew my parents would not be pleased because I was still on their insurance.
Two weeks later I had a court appearance on S. Lancaster Dr and I arrived plenty early for my hearing. I joined a rather large group of like-minded criminals and sat in the courtroom while people tried to weasel their way out of tickets. The judge was not easily moved, nor was he overly compassionate that day. He denied any mercy to the first five or six future convicts that made their cases before him.
Right before it was my turn, a young man in his early twenties tried to pull off the biggest sob story. He told the judge he was speeding but it wasn’t his fault. He was late to class (which also wasn’t his fault) and was trying to be a good college student (although the judge pointed out that his 3-f report card contradicted his statement). He blamed the weather, his friends and even his mom for the reason he was speeding. The judge didn’t budge. He lectured him on his poor driving, informed him that this third speeding ticket would probably revoke his insurance and assured him that one more violation in the next six months would also revoke his license.
The judge was not happy and now it was my turn.
After watching everyone before me try to convince the judge of their innocence and fail, I decided my best move was to simply to own my blunder. I stepped up to the bench as the judge looked over my rap sheet. He didn’t even look at me when he said, “It looks like you failed to stop at a stop sign.” I replied, “Yes sir.” He looked at my profile and said, “When I was a young man, they called that a California stop” to which I said, “They still do, sir.” He continued to study his papers, then said, “It looks like you just had a birthday...” (It was one week past my birthday) to which I quickly fired back, “Yes sir, and I was very disappointed you didn’t make the party.”
At this point, I wasn’t sure how much of a sense of humor our judge had, and was somewhat uncertain, even worried, that I was about to be thrown in jail for 15-20 years for trying schmooze a traffic judge. Instead, he looked up at me with a smirk. He then said, “I don’t remember receiving an invitation.” I laughed and said, “It must have gotten lost in all your paperwork.”
He shook his head, stamped something, scribbled his signature and handed me a form. “If you give this to the lady in back, and if you will attend a day of traffic school, I will wipe the ticket from your record like it never happened.” I happily received my reduced sentence, thanked the judge, and headed to the back table. There, the guy who had been up right before me was still arguing with the lady about how the polar vortex created a suction that made his car travel faster than the speed limit. I just smiled, paid my $15 court processing and fee and gladly accepted the exchange the judge had offered me.
While I was in back paying my fee and signing up for traffic school, the next person up was an 18-year-old girl who had received a moving violation for hitting a car (or mailbox...I can’t remember) while trying to paint her nails and drive. Like the others from earlier in the morning, she tried to use several excuses as to why she wasn’t guilty. Even before I was done, and while speed racer was still blaming global warming for his speeding issue, the judge tagged her hard with a hefty fine and a stern warning.
I thought it odd that no one just owned their guilt. In fact, had I not sat through several attempted sob story escapes, I’m certain I would have argued, too: “It was 11:30pm and no one was on the road...it was only 5mph...I didn’t hurt anyone...everyone does it....” And had I taken that approach, I’m sure I would have paid the full fine and would have been helping my parents pay the new insurance premiums.
In a strange way, that’s how so many of us approach our relationship with God. We don’t own our sin, and instead blame others. In a recent gallop poll, 74% of respondents who believed in heaven, said they were confident they would be going there when they died. An astounding 80% said they would get there because the good in their lives outweighed the bad. Now get this: Of those 80% that said the good would outweigh the bad, 75% of them based that on the “fact” that they lived by the 10 commandments, but only 2 in 10 could name more than 5 of the 10 commandments! So they agreed the standard for living was established by God, they were confident they were living by that standard, but they had no idea what the standard actually said!
God’s standard is impossible to live by perfectly -- you and I will always fall short. If we had to appear before Him and make a case for why He should allow us into Heaven, we would never make it, our rap sheet would be too long and the violations would be too many. In fact, just one violation of God’s law is too many, for His law demands perfection.
That’s the beauty of knowing God. He is a fair judge and knows that we have and will break His law. And while every violation must be punished with separation from Him, He accepts Jesus’ sacrifice as a sufficient payment for my violation. Jesus did what I couldn’t do, when He lived the perfect life, never breaking one of God’s laws. In doing this, He made Himself eligible to take my punishment, to be my traffic school, in order that I might have a right standing with God.
What do I have to do? I just have to own my sin, and accept Jesus’ free gift. I have to believe, in faith, that “Jesus died for my sins according to the Scriptures, and that He rose again, on the third day, according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). If I admit my sin before God, acknowledging that there is nothing I can do to make up for my sin, and then accept Jesus’ act of sacrifice as payment for my wrong doing, then I can live in freedom despite a really long criminal history! Jesus mediates between me and the Judge.
And that is how the Overboard Life begins. It’s not a matter of sheer will power, or me trying to keep all the commandments perfectly. It’s about the fact that Jesus did what I couldn’t do, paying the price I couldn’t pay. He will advocate for me before the Righteous Judge, I just have to own my part and accept His help.
I hope you’ve done that in your life and have started the Overboard journey with Jesus. If not, thankfully, it’s never to late with God. There is nothing you’ve done, or could ever do, that would make it impossible for you to accept His mercy given through His Son. Embrace the forgiveness God offers you and then start living today for Him.
Go ahead and take the plunge into the sea of God’s mercy and love...life is definitely better on the water with Him!