I’ve given my friends and family strict instructions: if I ever say, “oh yeah, I’ll drive to Atlanta for Thanksgiving and then just drive home the Sunday afterwards”, they’re to hit me. Hard. And take away my car keys.
Most of my college friends have ended up in Atlanta since the high concentration of Catholic High Schools there affords more opportunities for us Theology Majors to be employed as professional Catholics. This thanksgiving we gathered to catch up, eat, and engage in the perpetual pastime of girls in their 20’s—try on bridesmaid dresses. But that’s another story.
It was all fun and games until I hit the road at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, naively thinking I had left plenty of time to get back to Hilton Head for a 4:00 p.m. commitment. Maybe I would’ve, if I had opted to walk ride a vespa. However, 2:00 p.m. came and I had crawled about 30 miles in 2 hours. Epic Fail. I finally exited I-75 and may have gotten carried away singing along to my ”Glee” soundtrack as I was finally able to accelerate to the speed limit allowed… and some. My little Honda Civic bounded over a hill and right into the path of two state troopers, radar guns aimed and engines revved. It was a classic, “oh, fudge” moment. They both pulled out onto the road and proceeded to pull over me and another car.
I really am quite good at following rules. As a professional Catholic, I wear my seatbelt, stop at stop signs and even went back to the Hilton Head Airport to pay my parking fees in cash when the attendant was off duty and the “honor system” bucket didn’t allow me to use a credit card. However, I do sometimes drive a little fast. When I have kids in the car I’m overly cautious-- the phone goes unanswered, I stop at yellow lights, only make protected left-hand turns and drive 3.5 miles under the speed limit. However, when I drive alone I will use the time to apply lip gloss, text at red lights and crochet. (Ok, maybe just the first two.) I will also sometimes lose track of the speed limit and drive a bit fast. So, when those blue lights flashed in my rearview I knew that while this was not a happy moment, it was one that was a long time coming.
The state trooper was quite nice, I feel as though if we had met under other circumstances we would’ve had a lovely chat. He explained, apologetically, that he was out there to keep the crowded roads safe and my careening around several miles over the speed limit was problematic. I really couldn’t offer any excuses besides, “Sir, I’ve just been in a lot of traffic. I got impatient and carried away by the emotion of Glee’s rendition of ‘Defying Gravity’. I was going too fast. I’m sorry”. And, now, Bryan County will be richer thanks to my carelessness.
I’m still thoroughly annoyed, but my mother hopes that this officer gave me a necessary wake-up call that I was putting myself and others in danger. She’s definitely right in that way that mothers tend to be. Just yesterday I caught myself slowing down on the cross island as I remembered that I could not afford to make any more donations to the State Patrol. Being chastised caused me to regulate dangerous behavior.
I once spoke with a woman who, when she found out I was a youth minister, said, “Oh, Religion. It just makes people feel so guilty”. My response to her was, “Well, sometimes people need to feel guilty”. To clarify, I wasn’t speaking in judgment of her alone, but of humanity as a whole. In the Gospel of Mark, Christ says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (5:17). God became man so that we could have a perfect example of how to live. The Ten Commandments (the law) are a list of what we should not do, and in Christ we have the fulfillment of this law—a model of how to both avoid evil and do good. When we break the Ten Commandments and do things like lie, steal and cheat, we hurt others and put our souls in danger.
As unpleasant as a speeding ticket is, the state trooper had every right to point out I was breaking the law because I was putting myself and others in danger. In pointing out that I had done wrong (and giving me unpleasant consequences), it’s helping me change for the better. As Christmas approaches and we reflect on the coming of Christ, it would serve us and our communities if we allowed ourselves to be brutally honest with ourselves and look at what parts of our lives are in need of change. Reading the Bible, attending Church and allowing ourselves to be challenged by others shouldn’t be seen as a guilt trip but a chance to prepare our souls for heaven.