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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Living with a Radical Faith


I earned myself a speeding ticket yesterday.

Zipping along a beautiful stretch of road that winds between two lakes, there's a small town with a bait shop, a church, and a speed trap. As I'm reciting the scripture I'm trying to memorize and admiring the crisp sky, I spot a state trooper in the church parking lot.

I hit my brakes, glance at my speedometer, and pull over at the same time he pulls out and turns on his swirly lights.

He didn't say hello, even though I did. I handed over my license and registration. He turned on his heel and headed back to his car.

Five years ago I got a ticket in this exact same spot. I know better.

And yet, there I was in the exact same place.

When the officer returned with the ticket, I made sure to look him in the eyes. He told me the speed he clocked me at, and I tipped my head, drawing my eyebrows together. He wasn't correct. I was going at least 10 miles faster. It still was 19 miles over the posted speed.

I nodded, acknowledging his directions, and said, "Thank you."

I opened my wallet to return my driver's licensed and added, "Have a good afternoon."

The words were genuine, but I doubt he heard them. He was already walking back to his car. I couldn't stop myself from thinking how he was one grumpy officer.

Circumstances shouldn't have led me to be the kind one in this exchange. After all, it wasn't like he was the one who now had to pay a ticket instead of buying a new pair of cute boots.

Maybe I wasn't in the exact same place after all.

As I relayed the story to a friend, she said, "Wow! What a nice police officer. Over 20 would have led you to more points on your license and been a big deal to insurance. You're really lucky."

Her perspective helped turn mine.

Paul writes: For God works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing... This is the scripture I was learning to memorize when I was pulled over.

I could see the irony, rolling my eyes: Now do this one thing without grumbling.

The ticket is meaningless in the grand scheme of things. My response, however, holds great purpose. I might have been the only person, all day, all week, all month, who said thank you. I may have been the first one in a long time to look him in the eyes.

If I've decided to live this life for all I'm worth with a radical faith, then it's these moments of irony that give me a chance to live out my beliefs.  Just because it was rotten to be caught in a speed trap, doesn't mean that I can't still be used to make the world a better place.

(I just won't be doing it with new boots!)