Thursday, June 3, 2010

I've never gotten a ticket.

I have, however, been stopped by cops several times and once, I was even given a warning...

because my tail light was out.

I was summoned to court over that tail light, which I thought was unfair because it's not like I could see my tail light from where I sat in the driver's seat... but that's neither here nor there.

The warning said I had to appear before the judge on a certain day with proof that I had fixed the tail light, then the charges would be dropped. But, if I couldn't prove that I'd fixed it, I'd have to pay the fine.

So, my husband went to the auto part's store and bought a new light bulb and put it in for me and told me not to lose the receipt for the bulb. That receipt would be my proof that I had fixed it. I had to show it to the judge and that would be enough to get me out of the fine. So, I put the receipt right on top of my dresser, so I wouldn't lose it. And, I didn't lose it...

I just forgot to bring it with me to court.

I don't think I had ever even stepped foot inside a court room. So, I walked in nervously, but also pretty confidently, since I had fixed my light, after all, and therefore, had nothing to worry about. I was innocent. I just sat there watching the judge speak to someone else, kind of harshly, taking in my surroundings, all the cops, all the people, wow, so many people... and some of them look really rough... when the judge slammed the gavel down. Bang!

That jolted me out of my gawking for a moment and I thought, "Wow. This is serious. I could be in big trouble here. It sure is a good thing I am innocent and I have my..." in that split second I remembered. I didn't have my receipt! I can't prove I fixed anything!

Luckily (or by divine providence, more like), I knew one of the men who were responsible for leading people into the court room. He went to our church and was a friend of ours. He was standing by the door, also watching the proceedings. I went to him directly with a look of shear panic on my face. "I don't have my receipt that proves I fixed my tail light! And, I can't go get it or I won't be here when the judge calls for me!"

He looked as panicked as I was once my story registered. He started scrambling, looking at the judge, at me, at the people in the courtroom, thinking, wracking his brain. This made me even more frightened. Up till this point, I thought maybe I could just be honest with the judge and tell him I left it at home. What else could I do?

And, our friend knew the judge on a first name basis, right? Could he say something on my behalf?! Never. I could tell by the look on his face that that didn't matter in this setting. I needed proof that I didn't have. He knew I was in real trouble... and by the look on his face, I knew I was in even deeper trouble than I imagined... and the clock was ticking.

"Do you know where the receipt is? he asked. "Could Dwayne bring it to you?"

I told him, "I think so."

"Come here. You can use my phone..."

This was before most people had cell phones. (Yes. I am that old.) So, he led me out of the courtroom and into another lady's office. I thought he said I could use his phone?! But, it didn't appear to be his phone at all. The lady behind the desk looked at him in disbelief, realizing what he was about to let me do. It was obviously "against the rules." Then she looked at me in anger. He handed me the phone and gave me a look over the lady's shoulder that said, "Hurry!" so I dialed fast.

Luckily, Dwayne was able to rush home, pick up the receipt where I'd left it and rush it to me. I saw Dwayne at the door, rushed to him, he handed me the receipt, and I turned to walk back to my seat to wait again... and that's right when my name was called. If Dwayne had been one minute later...

Anyway, I remember sitting there, waiting for Dwayne to arrive, without my receipt, realizing, even though I was innocent, I was in just as much danger as someone else sitting there who really had broken the law because I had no way of proving I'd done what I was supposed to do.I was more terrified sitting there than I've even been in my entire life. I was so afraid of that judge...

Weeks later, I came across these Bible verses and for the first time, they made perfect sense to me because of what happened to me in court.

If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.

-Psalm 130: 3-4


I realized that I feared the judge that day because he could punish me. He was one of many that have been given authority to enforce the laws we've made on earth. But, even if the judge had believed my story about the receipt, I am not sure he had the authority to pardon me. He was probably bound by the law just like I was and if I hadn't produced the receipt, he probably would have ordered me to pay the fine.

But, it's different with God. God not only has the power to make laws, the laws that transcend the earthly kind, the ones that matter for eternity. He also has the power to do what's even more significant than punish when His laws are broken. God has the ability to grant forgiveness. And He often does...

And, this authority to forgive sins, once and for all, is really why He is so revered.


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