Guilty as Charged

I’m gonna let ya’ll in on a little secret.  I’m a crazy driver.  I was born with a lead foot and wouldn’t even want to guess at how many tickets I’ve accrued throughout the years.  I have managed to avoid an accident in recent history, but you’d better believe I’ve had my fair share.  I used to loathe the day when my car insurance bill arrived each month.  It made me cringe.

Back in ’07 or ’08, I was pulled over for speeding in a school zone.  (I know, I know.  I’m bad.)  I believe my ticket was around $150.  Because we were so broke after I had lost my teaching job, buying groceries and putting gas in the car was difficult.  So at that point, my ticket may just as well have been $1000… Paying the fine was going to be difficult! 

The deadline to pay the ticket came and went.  That spelled bad news for Julie.  Until I paid the ticket, I was living dangerously by driving on a suspended license.  It was nerve wracking.

Finally, one chilly Friday (which happened to be payday), I drove home from a substitute job intending to pay my ticket.  (Honest to goodness… I was planning on paying it THAT DAY!)  As I drove to pick up my daughter at her community bus stop through slushy snow, I slowed to obey the reduced speed limit in yet another school zone. 

I didn’t slow down fast enough. 

To my utter dread, a police car pulled out of its hiding spot and flashed ugly lights at me.  I pulled over immediately.  Adrenaline spiked my blood stream.  I knew I had been caught driving illegally on two counts, but that was the least of my concerns.  I was due at my daughter’s bus stop in less than 5 minutes.  Zoe’s community stop at the local Bureau of Motor Vehicles (oh the irony!) was miles from my home on a busy road.  She was only in 2nd grade.  I had to be there!

A young brash police officer stepped out of his car and sternly addressed me through my rolled down window.  In a flurry of words, I tried to explain that I was in a hurry.  The policeman was unmoved by my story.  Trying to settle my nerves, I dutifully handed him my license and registration.  He went back to his car to process my ticket, and I stirred in the driver’s seat.  As the seconds and then minutes ticked by, I got more and more nervous knowing that my daughter would feel forgotten and abandoned if I wasn’t there to retrieve her at the bus stop.  Finally, in a state of panic, I opened my car door to try and plead with the officer to let me walk to the bus stop which was only about 3 minutes away by foot. 

At once, the officer went from harsh to hostile.  “Close your door!” he roared in warning.  I obeyed.  While I understood that his training dictated such a response, it took all of my self-control to ignore the mother bear response I was experiencing, to walk to the bus stop anyway, and to face the ramifications of disobeying an officer later.   

Finally, Mr. Grumpy came back to the car and handed me my ticket.  He then informed me that I could not drive because my license was suspended.  “Okay okay,” I thought!  “Who cares?!  I have to get Zoe!” 

After getting permission to exit my car, I lurched out of my seat.  I was wearing red silk ballet slipper shoes as I tromped through 3 inches of snow.  My feet were soaked within a minute.  Tears spattered my face.  A couple of sweet drivers stopped to ask me if I needed help. “No thank you,” I replied.  I would walk even if my feet froze and I looked ridiculous.  I didn’t want to explain my humiliating situation to another soul.

I arrived at the bus stop just as the bus was about to pull away with my daughter on board.  Mercifully, the courteous driver saw me and stopped in the nick of time.

As soon as I had a very befuddled Zoe in tow, I used a (thankfully close) payphone to call my parents and ask them to meet me at my car.  I did not own a cell phone at the time, what with me being so broke and all.  I silently prayed and hoped that Mom and Dad would make it before the tow truck. 

As my daughter and I walked back to my vehicle, I tried my best to explain what was happening.  How does one describe traffic laws to a seven-year-old?  Shame washed over me.  My very innocent and pure 2nd grade daughter had a front row seat to witness her mother being disciplined not only by man, but also the Lord.  Clearly Jesus had had enough of my continued disobedience on the road, and He was sternly correcting me.  God disciplines those He loves, and man I was loved that day. (Hebrews 12:6)       

Thankfully, my parents showed up in time to rescue Zoe, me and my car.  As soon as they drove me to my apartment, I paid the outstanding ticket.  Then, I went into my bedroom, closed the door, and howled. It was one of those rare cries where the pain and frustration accumulated over many months came spilling out in the course of a few minutes.  (This period of my life was very difficult as I’ve described in earlier stories.)  The cry was ugly, cathartic, and exhausting.  My mother sat by my side, patted my back, and said absolutely nothing as my body was wracked with sobs.  There is a time for corrective reproof.  She was wise enough to know that this was not the moment for such discussions. I’ll never be able to say enough thanks for her nonjudgmental presence that afternoon.  

In typical Julie fashion, after my good cry, I pulled up my boot straps and dealt with my crazy afternoon.  I was never one to wallow, and God’s joy was and is always my strength. (Psalm 28:7)  Within a few days, I could laugh and roll my eyes at the ridiculousness of my decisions. 

By now you might be wondering where the miracle is in this story.  After all, the title of this blog is I Have Seen Miracles.  Keep reading.  It’s a doozie.

Because I had been pulled over for driving on a suspended license, I was due in traffic court in a few weeks.  The scheduled afternoon came, and as I drove to the courthouse, I prayed a little prayer.  “Lord, You and I both know that I am completely guilty of speeding and driving illegally.  I won’t even try to deny it or give excuses.  Please be with me and grant me grace as I face the judge.”

When I arrived at court, I was astonished by the number of people gathered.  A line of at least fifty yards filled the rotunda of the vast building.  “Great,” I thought.  “I’m going to be here all night!”

As many others and I waited for the courtroom doors to open, I made small talk with those next to me in line.  I know I talked about Jesus some- I always do.  After some time passed, a gentleman standing behind me began to discuss his particular case with anyone who would listen.  He had been pulled over for speeding, and it was his intention to try and find some loop hole to get out of paying the fine.  After listening to his arrogance for as long as I could handle, I turned around and simply said, “But, are you guilty?”  He blinked at me when I interrupted his reverie.  I continued, “When I face the judge, I’m not going to give an excuse.  I’m going to go in there and tell the judge that I am guilty, because I am.”  After a beat, he shrugged me off with a few words obviously intent on sticking to his weaseling plan.   

Literally less than thirty seconds later, those of us standing in line were interrupted from our small talk when we heard the sound of a lady’s voice yelling over the crowed, “Julie So-and-So?”  (I’m not sharing my last name here for obvious reasons.)  “Julie?” 

“I’m Julie,” I replied, waving to her as I did so.  She walked over to me, checked my ID, and then said, “Your case has been thrown out.  You are free to go.”

My face morphed quickly into an earsplitting grin.  The guy behind me was absolutely dumbfounded as well as all the other drivers within earshot.  I didn’t have a clue why in the natural world my case was thrown out, but I had no doubt that Jesus had heard my prayer and answered beyond what I could have possibly hoped or thought. (Jeremiah 29:11)

I have had time to reflect on this whole experience, and I believe it is a beautiful parable of what Christ did for me at the cross.  I was guilty that day, but allowed to go free without punishment.  Christ was guiltless, but because of His great love for me, He died on the cross to bear my punishment so I could go free. 

Those that approach the Judge of the Universe trying to convince Him that they are innocent of breaking His laws defined in the 10 Commandments will get just punishment for their actions.  On that Great Day just as so many do in today’s culture, many folks will try to justify themselves according to their own standards.  They’ll say to the Judge, “I’m a good person.  I never did anything really bad.  Sure I told a few lies, but I never murdered or raped anyone.  I gave to the poor.  I was a good citizen!”  However, God’s standards are so high that He considers lust adultery and hatred murder.  According to the Lord’s law, we are all guilty.  (Romans 3:23)  Those that try to justify themselves with their own works will stand condemned in front of the Judge.  Isaiah says it succinctly: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”

However, the Good News of the Gospel promises that if we approach Jesus by admitting our sin and asking for His forgiveness, He grants rivers of unmerited grace and mercy.  Just as I was allowed to walk free even though I was clearly guilty of driving on a suspended license, the Lord Jesus will declare those who call on His Name innocent because of His sacrifice at the cross.  John 3:16-17, in many ways the Cornerstone of the Christian faith, joyfully declares: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal live.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” Isaiah said 700 years before the birth of Jesus, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) And finally, Paul, writing to the Corinthian church says in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that “God made him who had no sin [Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

This is THE GOOD NEWS!  Glory to God!  May we believe and rest in these precious promises.   

The words to my favorite hymn bubble up just now as I reflect on what He has done for me:

Stuart Townsend
How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocing voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast inJesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom


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