When flashing lights alert you to the rearview mirror, you grip the steering wheel in frustration, realizing the forced pull-over is not intended for someone else.
I was just sure that light had been yellow…
You click on the blinker, carefully pull to the curb and come to a stop, then fiddle around for documentation, and say a few choice words before you have to roll down the window.
The uniformed officer asks, “You know what you just did?”
Most rules make abundant sense to me now: don’t run a red light, and slow down for yellow, too. A stop sign means stop–not slow down, roll through. Obey the speed limit and all the other rules of the road, or pay the consequences. Lessons learned.
In middle school, I paid for immature mistakes. Like, when my sixth-grade teacher intercepted a folded-up note I’d tossed along the tile floor to a boy across from me in my class.
“Do you want to go with Josie? She wants to go with you. She doesn’t like Mark anymore. Just you. She said she hopes you’ll hold her hand during couples’ skate Friday night.” When my toss made a little bounce, Mr. Craft’s eyes were on my match-maker message like glue.
After school, the offending note rode home in my folder like a ticking time bomb; the teacher had written on the bottom of the note:
“Parent(s): Sign and return. Maybe this is why Sarah’s grades are slipping.” He implied I was putting social life before social studies. Ugh!
My punishment: no ice skating Friday night.
They may as well have taken away my cell phone (though we didn’t have them in 1972). My note-tossing days were over.
Years later, I paid more serious consequences for my actions: Feeling defeated by the enemy of my soul, I found myself inside church fellowship halls listening to stories of those working the 12 Steps to overcome addictions.
Some had been incarcerated.
Others lost jobs.
Marriages, relationships…and their very lives had been at stake.
Miraculously, they were experiencing new freedoms. They’d not only been restored to health, but to sanity.
At least I’m not that bad, I thought.
But as the truth of each recovery story penetrated my heart, I sensed a personalized warning, a need for me to figuratively “pull over” again. Instead of the officer’s voice, it was my own conscience:
“Haven’t you been heading down a similar path? Consider these heartfelt testimonies are ones you were meant to hear. How fast have you been going down this same, progressive course?
I certainly had the freedom to choose to not embrace the path of recovery they spoke of, but I sensed all of the losses, pain, and suffering these folks testified to, they were patiently waiting for me. Would my marriage, my integrity, my liver, my sanity—would I–survive?
For me to deny the inevitable was to be like a willful child, wanting my own way in fits and tantrums when change was in order. Or, I could face facts. Learn a new way. But where would this new freedom, this obedience, come from?
I sensed its arrival the moment I surrendered.
I can’t explain it, but my heart, my mind felt it like a wave; a strong-arm security wrapped around me.
And I began to return to my great love–and to recover my respect for the authority of Abba–my loving, heavenly Father.
Eugene Peterson, in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, has had lots to say on obedience, on faith, the Christian life, and on child-like willingness:
- “We (disciples) are people who spend our lives apprenticed to our master. We are in a growing-learning relationship, always. We don’t learn in a school, but at the work site of the craftsman. We seek not to acquire information about God but skills in faith.”
- “The Christian life is not a quiet escape to a garden where we can walk and talk uninterruptedly with our Lord, not a fantasy trip to a heavenly city where we can compare our blue ribbons and gold medals with those of others who have made it to the winner’s circle…. The life of faith is a daily exploration of the constant and countless ways in which God’s grace and love are experienced.”
- “Our Lord gave us the image of a child, not because of the child’s helplessness, but because of the child’s willingness to be led, to be taught, to be blessed.”
- “It is nearly as hard for a sinner to recognize the world’s temptations as it is for a fish to discover impurities in the water.”
I began a recovery from stagnant waters in 1986, and today, I renew my commitment again and again, in meaningful ways. And I try to give back.
Perfection? No way!
For FREEDOM, Christ has set us free, Therefore, do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. ~ Galatians 5:1
If it were entirely up to me to figure it all out, my life would still be a mess–if I still had a life. Thankfully, today, I am filled with life and hope. Obedience takes accountability and action, and when I’m freed for joyful obedience, I’m on my way.