As soon as I saw the police car, I knew he had me.
I was driving my husband Paul to work (which happens sometimes as a 1-car family), and a long lunch stop left us running behind. I wasn’t paying attention and missed the sign indicating the 25 MPH speed limit. I was going a lot faster than that.
I wasn’t even past him when I saw him moving to pull out behind me. By the time his lights went on, I was already at the curb. He came to the window, introduced himself and explained why he “contacted” me (yes, he said “contacted”). He asked for the usual paperwork, and as he walked back to his patrol car with my license and proof of insurance, I sighed. I was in for a ticket – possibly a big one.
We waited and waited while the officer sat in his car, doing whatever it is officers do during that time. After what felt like forever, he emerged and I felt a glimpse of hope. There was no ticket book in his hand – just my documents. Could I really be so lucky?
He apologized for the wait, saying that the reason he took so long was that he was checking my driving record. He said that since I had a relatively clean record, he was going to let me off with just a warning to slow down and pay attention. I thanked him for his grace, assured him that I would indeed be more mindful of the speed limit and keep it in check.
Paul and I breathed a collective sigh of relief as he dismissed us. We thought back to when I last had a ticket – it was certainly more than 5 years and in a different state. I was so grateful for the grace I’d received.
The thing is, that isn’t grace at all. Sure, it’s a gift, and it’s mercy, but it’s definitely not grace.
It’s such a good thing that God doesn’t check to see if my recent behavior is good enough to outweigh my current infraction. Let me tell you, if it worked like that, I’d have no hope of getting off with a warning.
Grace doesn’t come from good behavior. It comes because God is good, and He chooses to give it in spite of my bad choices. It comes because Jesus paid the “ticket” for me. I will never be good enough for grace.
I’m so glad I don’t have to be.
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. – Titus 3:4-5a NIV