This weekend was a mixture of blessing and difficulty for me. I had a wonderful Saturday morning with just my son Tommy (aka Thomas, Tom-Tom, Tommy-Reid) as my little girls went fishing with their Grandpa and Great Grandpa and Kasey spent most of the day with her Mom. That night Kasey and I had a great time getting dinner out and catching a movie together. At the end of the night we had some tension as we are working through a decision together that we are having a hard time finding common ground. Anyway, Kasey is my best friend and I just don't enjoy it when we are bit crusty with one another.
The next morning we were getting the kids ready for church and were running a bit late. To be honest, I was a bit frustrated and driving too fast. Yeah, you know what is coming. On the way into downtown Raleigh the speed limit drops to 35 pretty quickly which I did not notice. Let us just say I was going quite a bit faster than that and a kind gentlemen in blue decided I needed to pull over. Kasey looked at me and said "I think our plates expired in June" - a byproduct of our crazy summer not being able to get to New Jersey at this point. So I was waaay speeding, with expired plates, crusty with my wife and sitting in the seat just utterly discouraged as I awaited the typical "license and registration" - Oh yeah, I got a speeding ticket in Raleigh when I preached at the same church in March (In my defense, I don't get a lot of tickets and have a great driving record - that was my first ticket in almost 10 years).
So the the kind police officer asked if we were from out of town. I said yes...more than he knew. He took the address where we were living down, gathered my license and expired registration and walked slowly back to his squad car. I looked at Kasey and said "this is going to cost us, affect insurance, etc." I felt utterly deflated. Kayla Joy, my six year old, murmured a question from the very back corner of our silver mini van. "Daddy, is this going to cost us money?" she said. I replied in a soft broken voice "Yes, probably quite a bit of money..." She then got out a few words, which Kasey said was "oh no, we are not going to have enough money for Jacob's Well," and begin to sob quite heavily. I teared up myself as the cop came back towards the car. My kind wife, with whom I was having some tension, gently stroked the back of my head as to affirm me in the moment.
The policeman asked "I am guessing that the tags are expired because you are new to town and living with your in-laws? Are you guys just getting settled in to North Carolina?"
I replied "Actually, we are heading to New Jersey" He followed with a typical response we get in the south "Dear God, why are you doing that."
"To plant a church" Kasey added in "He is a pastor" and I said "I actually seem to only get speeding tickets in Raleigh as I got one while preaching at this same church in March" He chuckled. He then handed me the printed citation; I feared to even look at it as I did not know the fines and laws for being over the speed limit as much as I was. Let alone driving on expired tags.
What followed was a flood of sheer grace. The officer said "I sensed you needed a warning ticket this morning" - Kasey and I sat in silence as he drove away, our kids as well. I just thought - God, I needed that this morning. I did not need a warning ticket, I did not need to save my driving record, I didn't even need to save my bank account which I thought was going to take a dent. I needed grace - kindness extended to the guilty freely by one who had the power and authority to do so.
We wept and thanked God for the reality of grace - for us, to us, through Jesus. We then drove slowly on to Vintage 21 to worship the God of grace. Providentially enough, the pastor preached from John 8 where Jesus deals with a woman caught (framed) in the act of adultery. His voice was clear - "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more." I was guilty, dead on guilty but received mercy instead - the gospel. Simple - unbelievable truth.
I thanked God for a kind policeman who reminded me of the grace of God which is infinite in Christ. A small gift to our family echoed of the great gift God has given the human family in Jesus. Indeed, as I looked at my wonderful wife and friend Kasey I thought to myself what is proclaimed in the beginning of John's gospel:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.