67 in a 55. That's how fast I was going yesterday when a police officer pulled me over. The change to 70 mph was literally less than 75 yards ahead of me. I could see the sign. I could almost smell it, I was so close.
But, I wasn't there. I was still in the 55 zone going 12 mph faster than permitted. (Turns out, those signs aren't suggestions. Who knew?!)
When his flashing lights came on, I pulled over, slid my license out of my wallet, dug my insurance card out of the glove compartment, and waited. And waited. And waited. I still have temporary tags on my car (I get the real ones today), so I guess it takes a while to look up a vehicle like that to make sure it hasn't been stolen. At least, that's what I'm supposing. Either that, or he just wanted to make me sweat a little longer!
When he finally arrived beside my door, I handed him the paperwork, we had a conversation about my erroneous ways, and he told me...to slow down. No ticket; not even a written warning. Mercy flooded over me in a very real and practical way, soothing my heart and mind.
A vivid reminder of grace. What it looks like, how it feels, what it means. Believers have each been rescued by God's grace from various sinful behaviors. Galatians 5:19-21 has a long list of some of them (sexual immorality, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, drunkenness), that tempt and call back His beloved to their death-grip. Satan uses these to gain a foothold of destruction in lives so they will be rendered useless for the Kingdom of God, and personal relationships with the Heavenly Father will grow stale and meaningless.
Not listed in this passage, but in more than 60 other passages throughout the Bible is pride. Among many others, it's my greatest struggle. I get comfortable in doing the "right" things, or not doing the "wrong" things, comparing my actions or behaviors to other people, developing some kind of self-righteous attitude. And then something like yesterday occurs to shake me up. A reminder that I have done nothing worthy of praise. In fact, my righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). No, I haven't murdered anyone, haven't used drugs as an addiction to fill empty places in my life, but none of the things that I do "right" are to my credit, either. They are because the Holy Spirit has been at work. As a human being, this side of Heaven, I am called to strive for perfection (1 Peter 1:15-16), but I will never achieve it with my own volition or effort. I may even be less than 75 yards away; able to see it, able to smell it, I may be so close. But I am still, nonetheless, guilty and convicted. And it is only grace that has spared me.
After Jonah preached to the Ninevites and they repented he had some serious self-righteousness issues. He even accused God of being too "gracious and compassionate...slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity" (Jonah 4:1-2). And after God asked him a question, Jonah gave Him the silent treatment!! (Which is typical of us self-righteous types, by-the-way: too holy to talk to or be seen talking to others, fooling no one but ourselves.) As it turns out, God let him sit in silence, and even provided a vine to grow up and give Jonah shade in the heat of the day. Jonah, naturally, received this act of mercy for himself. (After all, didn't he deserve it for being such a good person, especially since he acted in obedience even when he didn't agree with God?)
But Jonah broke his silence to complain - self-righteous folks are good at complaining - when God allowed a worm to eat that vine of shade. And it's a good picture of what happens inside prideful individuals. Self-righteousness eats them up within, leaving manure of bitterness that decomposes into the soul, rotting it rather than fertilizing it, rendering them (me) useless, and relationships with God, stagnant.
So I'm grateful to that officer for getting me out of my self-righteous, self-absorbed funk yesterday. God used him (and my lead foot) to remind me that I'm convicted, but covered with His amazing grace. And, oh boy, did I slow down.
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