When I went to the gym today, I noticed a city police officer was sitting at the far end of the parking lot. My first impulse was to check my speed. Having received a $300 ticket for Christmas last year, I am in no hurry to do that again. Since it was early, I figured he was there to keep an eye on early commuter/school traffic. I went on about my business, spending about an hour in the gym.
As I walked out, I noticed that the officer was still there. A bit surprised, I got into my car; he pulled out seconds before I did. I followed him through our small town for a couple minutes until he turned off at the station. After giggling to myself about the difference in my reactions to his presence before and after my workout, I thought about how this is similar to our attitudes about God.
When I first noticed the squad car sitting there, my first impulse was to snatch my foot off the gas, even though I was preparing to turn and was already below the speed limit. My past experiences (speeding ticket) made me not want to get caught doing something wrong again. I do the same thing when an officer pulls behind me in traffic. Logically I know that he/she has somewhere to be and we just so happen to be going the same direction for a while. Yet I always feel a bit paranoid and therefore obsessively monitor my speed, stay carefully between the lines, keep my hands on the wheel so it doesn’t look like I’m using my phone, etc. Admittedly, I do have a rather gangsta-looking car, so there have been times when I feel pretty sure that my actions were being observed; but for the most part, police officers have more important things to do than follow me for 10 miles just to make sure I don’t go over 57 MPH.
Walking out of the gym and seeing a law enforcement officer in the parking lot, especially if I am there by myself, can be rather comforting. I know that it would be unwise for anyone to mess with me while a cop is sitting right there. (Not that anyone has ever attempted to do so, but sadly enough, a woman alone has to be extra vigilant.) Pulling out of the parking lot, I noticed how much less anxious I was when I was following the policeman instead of the other way around. I knew the pace was acceptable and there was no need to be hyper-sensitive to my every move.
On the ride home, I considered how my two reactions to the same officer were at opposite ends of the spectrum, as well as how these reactions were a picture of how we often relate to God. We often think of God as a Cosmic Cop with unlimited power to ruin our lives, like He’s sitting up there in heaven just waiting for us to make a mistake so He can zap us. Nothing could be further from the truth. The rules God has set for us are not for our detriment, but rather for our good.
Case in point: My husband is a licensed electrician. He invested in his education then spent several years of apprenticeship training under a master electrician in order to learn his trade. Only then was he eligible to take (and pass) the seven-hour-long test necessary for receiving his own license. There are rules for someone getting their electrical license. You wouldn’t want some guy who read a How-To book one time to show up to fix a short in your wiring. That could very well lead to the fire department showing up at your house in the middle of the night. Not an ideal scenario.
Rules, anywhere from small town speed limits to “thou shall not kill” are important safety nets for us as individuals and as a society. God does not impose rules upon us to stifle our fun, but rather to protect our safety and well-being. Breaking a law will have consequences, such as that not-so-fun $300 ticket. This means we made a mistake, not that the law or the officer or God is out to get us.
Sometime back, God and I were wrestling through some things. I was wrong and I knew it, but I stubbornly rationalized my way of thinking. There was a period of about a year when I refused to read my Bible because I knew Holy Spirit would convict me, and frankly, I just didn’t want to hear it. Internally, I was such a brat during those days. I was mad at God when all the time I was the one in the wrong. I was also deeply embarrassed by how distorted I’d allowed my thinking to become. Eventually I stopped fighting Him and allowed His grace to heal me.
Our responses to law enforcement can act as a metaphor for how we regard God. Here are a couple takeaways from my drive home:
My reaction to God is often determined by my perception of my situation, not by Who He is.
I appreciate His authority when I need help, then resent it when I’m trying to push the limits. When I am doing something I know that I should not, it colors my perception of Who God is. I convince myself He is out to get me. I see Him as Punisher. Much like being angry at a policeman for pulling me over for speeding – after all, I was only going ten over – I often blame God for my own bad choices and convince myself that He just doesn’t want me to have any fun.
If the situation changes, however, and there is someone trying to break into my house, my opinion of that very same police offer can change drastically. Similarly, when I am rightly related to the Father, I see Him as my Protector. I may not be overly thrilled about certain limits He sets, but I trust His heart. Knowing the limits creates a safe parameter within which I can operate. Trouble, as the old saying goes, is easy to get into and hard to get out of. It is best to avoid it in the first place.
Flat-out rule keeping is important, but far better is willing obedience. I do what God says, not just because I don’t want the negative consequences, but because I love Him and want to please Him. I remember when my daughter was younger there were times when she thought my rules were excessive, or even ridiculous, and she would question their logic. Without exception, I had a reason for each limitation I imposed on her, always with her best interest in mind. Sometimes it was something that I could point out or explain. Sometimes it was based on things that were beyond her scope to understand at her particular age. On those occasions, all I could offer her was, “I need you to trust me on this one.” We need to give God the same benefit of the doubt that I asked of my young daughter. While I am prone to human weakness, God is definitive Goodness. He is powerful. He is truth and love. He is steady and unchanging, regardless of circumstances that would seem to indicate otherwise. Yes, He establishes Justice, but as Exodus 34:6 reminds us, He is “slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Rather than zap us, God is looking for opportunities to point out when we do things right.
God loves us like crazy, and He delights to delight in us.
Photo credit: https://www.insidesources.com