The world is broken, and it’s frustrating. We all know dozens of truisms: you reap what you sow; you get out of it what you put into it; it’s hard to beat a person who never gives up. And those things are truisms. They’re mostly true, in general, but not always.
That’s the frustrating part. I know better than to have a purely retribution-theology view of the world (that is: obey = rewarded, disobey = punished), but it tends to feed into my thinking, especially in moments of panic. And the world doesn’t work that way, but I start to wonder if it does.
I was having a good morning last Monday. I had done a lot of things exactly the way I wanted to do them. It was awesome. I got into the car running 10 minutes late, not bad for a Monday morning. (I should note, it was 7:00 in the morning. I start early.) On my way to the post office for work, I drove through the usual speed trap. Since I wasn’t speeding, I didn’t worry a bit.
And then, in my rear view mirror, I saw the police car pull out into the road, lights flashing. He found his way quickly behind me. I pulled over (in retrospect, I pulled into a not-so-safe spot, double-duh), and did the right thing – hands on the steering wheel, window rolled down, and I waited. As I waited, I tossed my brain for what on earth I could be stopped for. And then it hit me… I bet my tags are expired.
The nice (genuinely) officer came up and said, “Your tags are expired… licensed and registration, please.” (Side question: the sticker that shows that my tags are expired is seriously 1.5” x ¾”. How did he see that from the other side of the road at 50 mph? I don’t understand.)
He was gracious. He told me to bring the paperwork by the station within ten business days, and it’d be dropped.
And I’m glad for the grace, but it still feels like a punishment. In the cosmic scheme of things, the question I want to ask is, “Why am I being punished when I did things right?”
Of course, the answer is much simpler. I’m not being punished in some cosmic sense. I’m being pulled over because I made an administrative error in my life; I didn’t renew my registration.
But my brain automatically asserts all kinds of additional things. There must be, as Joshua learned, sin in the camp.
Instead of processing that way, I need the gospel. I need to remind myself that I was lost, but now am found. That I was a slave to sin, and now I’ve been set free to be a slave to righteousness in Christ. That who I am is no longer defined by who my great-great-great-great-great grandfather was, but instead by my savior.
That’s a good reminder. I need that.