Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Illegal U-Turns

I made an illegal u-turn Monday.

Innocently enough, I didn't KNOW it was illegal. But the motorcycle cops did. 

As the story goes, I was taking my lunch hour while working in Murfreesboro and had decided to spend my time browsing around Target and then grabbing a bite at McAlister's. Driving up Old Fort Parkway I realized 'browsing' around Target wouldn't exactly be beneficial to my checkbook ('cuz we all know you can't just browse in Target), so I decided it would be best to just head back to the office and get something from the break room. CHEAP, healthy, and quick. Coming up on an intersection, I decided to make a u-turn and head back to the office. I didn't see a sign prohibiting it, so I got into the left lane and proceeded to turn. The moment I began to complete the turn and straighten out the steering wheel to go in the opposite direction I noticed two motorcycle cops on my tail end. Literally, On.My.Tail.End..... At first I assumed they were just trying to get by me to chase a speeder. But it didn't take long for me to realize those blue flashing lights were for me. The fact that one of the officers was waving at me in the rear view mirror and sharply pointing at the emergency lane kinda clued me in too.

I had a little conversation with one of the officers while the other stayed on his bike and stared at me non-stop in my side mirror. AWKWARD. After me clarifying why the address on my registration and the address on my driver's license weren't accurate, the policeman asked what I was doing in Murfreesboro. I had to spell out my 'work from home' situation and explain to him that I traveled to the area about every two weeks to work in the office. He eventually asked, "So, do you travel THIS road much?" Knowing I used to travel it at least five days a week and not wanting to lie, I replied, "Yes, allllllllllll the time." As soon as the words came out of my mouth I realized I'd probably just dug my own grave. He proceeded to tell me that there was a sign CLEARLY stating that u-turns were illegal at that intersection. I promised him I didn't see a sign, which I honestly didn't. He made his way back to his motorcycle with all of my information in his hand. I sat in the car shaking and trying not to look into the face of the officer staring at me in my side mirror. Again, AWKWARD.

After about seven minutes that seemed like an eternity, the officer returned to my window with a pink piece of paper dangling from his right hand. He gave me back my license, registration, and insurance information and said, "I'm gonna give you a 'gimme' today." Confused and completely unsure of what he meant, I prepared for the worst. Then he said, "Most people wouldn't be so forgiving. You said you travel this road all the time, so you should know there's an illegal u-turn sign back there. But, you were honest with me."  He handed me the pink piece of paper with WARNING written on it and said, "I'm just giving you a warning today. That means no court appearance, no citation, just a warning. But next time you decide to make an illegal u-turn, DON'T do it with two motorcycle cops on your tail end!" Shocked, I said, "What?!? You were behind me when I turned?!?"  He replied, "Yes! How do you think we pulled you over so fast?" I laughed and said, "I don't know! I would HAVE to be an idiot to do something like that..." He laughed and replied, "No, you're not an idiot. I understand. You were probably just focused on getting to work." I kind of chuckled and told him that what was so crazy about the whole thing was that I was actually on my lunch hour and had decided not to spend any money so I was turning around to head back to the office and eat something cheap out of the break room. He laughed and said, "And then you almost ended up spending $130 on lunch!" I sunk in my seat and let out a huge sigh of relief knowing that a $130 ticket would've been very difficult to pay. Then, with a charge to drive carefully, he sent me on my way.

I think my legs were jell-o for the next thirty minutes or so. 

I thought about my interaction with that motorcycle cop all the way back to Knoxville that evening. I also thought a lot about u-turns... My u-turn was a criminal offense, whether I knew it or not, whether I believed it or not. Truth is, he could have given me a $130 ticket and been justified in doing so. I may have thought there was nothing wrong with what I did, but Murfreesboro's criminal code says differently. Absolute truth is that it is illegal to make a u-turn at the intersection of Old Fort Parkway and Stones River Mall Boulevard. Remember that, my 'boro friends.

According to that truth, I should have been cited for my offense. But this particular police officer showed me mercy. Some might say he showed me grace. But it was mercy. It was compassion. He gave me something I didn't deserve.

I think it's difficult to understand grace until you first understand mercy. Mercy is NOT punishing me for my sin (or my illegal u-turn) like I deserve. Mercy is deliverance from judgment. In light of the law, I should have been punished and there should have been a judgment. But, thank God, that officer gave me mercy instead. I could've rejected it. I could've denied that I'd done anything wrong, using the fact that I didn't see the 'no u-turn' sign as my excuse. But that would be nothing but an excuse, and it would be ludicrous. Why would anyone deny mercy and choose judgment instead?

So many people make this choice in life. Turning away from the mercy and grace offered by God, they choose to deny what is freely available. Some believe it's a lie. Some believe Christians are fools. Some are simply blinded by sin.

Eternally, there is no mercy and there is no grace without Christ. There is no merciful motorcycle cop standing at the gates of Heaven waiting to allow you in with just a warning. There is no 'gimme.' There is no hope for eternal life without Him.

God's grace is a person...

"For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession,eager to do good works." 
Titus 2:11-14

Jesus Christ is grace personified. 

You know, not all u-turns are illegal....  

"Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord..." Acts 3:19