Friday, July 10, 2009

Mercy and Grace - A little and a lot.

I've had a number of speeding tickets. They don't seem to have the desired effect on me, which is to influence me to slow down. With every one I have said, "This time I'm going to change," but admittedly, it never seems to last. Until recently...

I shared a previous experience in court on this blog about a year ago. I fought a ticket which needed to be fought - and at the end of my day in court (most of it spent waiting), the prosecutor said to the judge, "We are withdrawing the charges, Your Worship," then turned and pointed in my direction before adding, "And we're going to hire her."

It was a very cool experience - one in which God had taught me much about facing intimidation and relying on Him to be my protection and for Him to be my strength in any given situation where I might feel overpowered and/or outnumbered.

So when I got the next ticket - last September - I was facing court again, but this time without a shred of fear. I deserved this ticket, and though I chose not to fight it, I did decide to go to court in order to see if I would be offered a reduction in the charges. It wasn't the fine for exceeding the speed limit by 30 kilometres an hour that motivated me to do so, but the fact that I would be losing four points off my licence, quite possibly followed by a huge increase in insurance premiums.

I arrived at the court house a few minutes early, but was chagrined to realize that I had no money on me for parking. I left my car at a pay-and-park anyway, knowing I would probably have to pay a higher premium for the space that morning - in the form of a parking ticket. I rushed into the court house and ran around finding Court Room # 1, only to realize I was in the wrong courthouse. I quickly got directions, was reoriented and ran down the street to the right building this time. I was 15 minutes late. Arghhhh!

I passed all the other poor souls who had already gone through the process and were seated on pew-like benches facing the front and waiting for the proceedings to begin. I approached the prosecutor who peered at me over horn-rimmed reading glasses and said, "Yes..?"

I gave him my name and waited while he went through a long list of violators until he found me - second last on the list.

"Susan Stewart. Ah, here you are." He pointed to my name on the page and I followed his finger across to silently read the charges against me while he stated them out loud. "I see you are charged with 30 over the limit. That's a fine of $210 and 4 points off your licence." He looked up at me over those imposing glasses and paused.

What could I say? I held my breath, hoping for mercy, but knowing it was so ill-deserved that I didn't even bother to pray.

"How about changing that to "disobey sign"? The penalty for that is 2 points off your licence and the fine will be set at $100. Are you willing to accept that?" He stared down at his page, waiting, it seemed, for me to find fault with his offer.

But I nearly jumped out of my skin. I put my hand over my heart in a bit of a dramatic flair and said, "Sir, I gladly and gratefully accept."

His serious and officious expression was suddenly transformed into a smile. He looked around at the other court officials who were nearby and listening in to our exchange. "On second thought, let's make that $80," he said to my utter delight. "We'll bring it down just because you're being so nice about it." He put a stroke through the $100 he had written and wrote 80 in its place.

"You're the first one to be nice to me today." He continued in a way that was obviously meant to make the court officials around him smile. They did. Apparently I was sharing my day in court with bunch of people who were not as happy with the outcome of their talk with the prosecutor as I was. I felt fantastic on many levels.

"Thankyou!" was all I could splutter out. I gratefully went to take my seat and wait for the judge to enter the courtroom while I finally allowed myself to pray, "Lord, please help this to go fast enough to keep my car from being towed away. I got back to my car to find that I would be charged $16 for parking that morning - $12 if I made an early payment within 15 working days of receiving the ticket.

I marveled, as I drove home later (under the speed limit, I might add!) at the kindness and the mercy I received and how good it felt to be in that position. They should have thrown the book thrown at me. It's not like it was my first offence. All the evidence was there and the citing officer was in the court ready to testify. They could have nailed me to the wall.

I felt, in the midst of this experience, in some small measure, the mercy and the grace of our God. It felt pretty good, but doesn't compare with what is in store for me one day in His courtroom...

"And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—" Ephesians 2:6-8 NIV

"...I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness." Jeremiah 31:3 NIV

"...but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD. Jeremiah 29:4


Belinda said...

What a beautiful illustration of grace and mercy, and a repentant and humble heart. It makes me think of this verse:

Psalm 51:17 (The Message)
16-17 Going through the motions doesn't please you,
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
don't for a moment escape God's notice.

Deidra said...

I've been thinking a lot about grace these days. What a wonderful illustration you've shared. Grace means so much more when we realize what we really deserve.

Marilyn said...

I felt your panic all the way through this. Heard the heart pounding, maybe even sweated. And then the "I gladly and gratefully accept" seemed to break the tension. WHATEVER the outcome was going to be, it seemed settled at that moment.

ivanova said...

This is very anecdotal and not scientific, but I've noticed that many people with deep religious faith tend to speed and break other traffic laws. Perhaps this is because you feel confident there is something waiting for you on the other side? This is a little rough on the rest of us. Maybe my theory is crackpot, but I'm trying to say in a nice & humorous way that you really should consider slowing down and obeying all the posted signs. Just like drunk driving, speeding could kill you or someone else. I'm glad everything worked out okay for you in court, and I'm glad you drove safely home. Please keep up the good work and do your best to drive safely. It would be a nice way to show grace and mercy to others. Sorry to sound like a scold, but I think this is pretty serious. After working with many children who became disabled in car accidents, it is burned into my heart that this happens all the time.

Belinda said...

Dear Ivanova,
Thanks for the comment and exhortation. Even though I didn't write this post, I need to heed your words. It's easy to manage time poorly and find oneself rushing--leaving too late to get to the next place and feeling pressured to speed up. I'm trying to live differently to that lately and your comment was an added nudge.