Last night I returned home with Angie after spending six days (five nights) away in celebration of 15 years of marriage. Much could be said about my gratitude for her as my wife and best friend! We had a great time reconnecting and relaxing. I think my favorite moment was leading her by the hand deeper into the ocean than she had ever dared tread. We body surfed together. The moment struck me. We had the excitement of two kids on their fist date, but the mutual trust of a couple that's been married for 50 years. That was a special time.
As we drove from Huntington Beach to Santa Barbara where I preached Sunday morning we ran into a snag. As I pulled onto the 405 from the East 32nd Street on-ramp I gently eased over toward the HOV lane through heavy traffic. Even though it was heavy we still had to go 70 to keep from being run over! When I was in the number 2 lane I looked into my mirror to see that the vehicle behind was racing toward my bumper. As a courtesy I moved over the the number 1 lane. It was tight. I then noticed that the HOV lane was clear and I opted to move over immediately to get out of every one's way. As soon as I was in the lane flashing lights greeted by rear view. It took two miles to get over and off. I had crossed the double yellow line into the HOV lane. In CA they have special spots where you are allowed to enter that lane. In my concentrated effort to avoid traffic I hadn't noticed. Now I'll have a $434 reminder to notice next time.
While the officer was examining my documents and license I thought, "He's been gone a long time. That can't be good." It wasn't. He returned with my ticket, told me to sign, and told me how I could get back on the freeway.
I was so stunned that I wasn't even able to plead my case. It wasn't intentional. It was an effort to avoid causing an accident, not to avoid heavy traffic that I didn't want to sit in. When I went on to the CA website to check out the damage (the ticket included no numbers/fees) I was all the more disappointed to learn that this particular infraction can't be dismissed by the court. The legislature wrote it that way. So much for a trial by jury! Mitigating circumstances??? They don't matter.
This morning as I reflected on the incident I realized something further. I was stunned to get the ticket because as I sat in the truck with Angie and waited I was expecting grace. Yes, that's right! I was EXPECTING grace as though I deserved it or something. What a misunderstanding of grace. Now I'm wrestling with the deeper question of where I abuse grace from Jesus. Perhaps that's why God appointed Officer S. Clyburn to be there to write that ticket?
I've put a call out to his office in hopes that he hasn't yet filed the ticket with the Long Beach Court and that I might have the opportunity to ASK for grace.
These kinds of lessons are difficult, but I'm reminded of Eugene Peterson's summary of Hebrews 12:11: "At the time, discipline isn't much fun. It always feels like it's going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it's the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God."