Yesterday my son and I took a drive to my hometown to visit my mom for the day. That highway always brings back so many memories for me. It’s funny how something as simple as a road can be a landmark of emotion. It reminds me of my first trips with friends who got their licence, my first drive after I got my licence, fun trips to the city with my family, not so fun trips to the city for dreaded doctors appointments, moving all my stuff up to the city, and now it’s the road that takes my little family to see my hometown and my mom and one sister that are left back there.
On my drive yesterday, as my little guy was asleep in the back seat I was reminded of a specific trip I had taken to the city with one of my sisters. I had recently got my licence, and was really just discovering a whole new world of great Christian music. After a day of shopping and an extended visit at Blessings Christian Bookstore, we were on our way back with the new sounds of “How Great Is Our God” coming through the speakers, and we sang at the top of our lungs. Life was good, God was good.
As I was coming around a bend, close to town, I saw the lights of a police car go off and quickly pull over. I glanced down at my speedometer, sure that he must not be stopping me.
Whoa. I was going really fast. (Ok I know most of you are thinking I probably wasn’t that innocent, but this is my version of the story!)
I pulled over, and much to my terror, out got the police officer who was also our neighbor and a wonderful family friend. My heart sank down to the pit of my stomach. embarrassment and shame crept over me like a terrible rash. Why couldn’t it have been anyone but him?
Not only was he a great family friend, but he was also the officer I was partnered with to go into schools and classrooms to talk to kids about D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) and encourage them to be leaders and live lives different from the social norm.
As I rolled down my window, I tried to stop the hot tears from spilling over my cheeks. He told me was really surprised to see me, and asked for my licence and registration. Then he said four words I have never forgotten.
“I am really disappointed.”
Those words dug through my heart like a knife. I was so embarrassed, I thought I would never be allowed to help kids avoid drugs and alcohol, or encourage them to live positive lives because I had now done one of the worst things an upstanding citizen could do. I sped.
Okay, so that was an extreme thought pattern, but I did feel an huge amount of embarrassment. The officer let me go with a warning and a disappointment speech, since it was my first offence. All I could think of is that I would have done anything for it to be some unknown officer who would have written me a ticket. Anything, but disappointing this officer.
Looking back, that was the best person who could have possibly stopped me in that moment. I am now extremely aware of how fast I am going, and try really hard to not speed (I don’t want to say I’ve never sped again, just in case that isn’t true, but I don’t think I have!)
Maybe another sixteen year old would have brushed it off as nothing, but there is something to be said for giving a teen responsibility and letting them know that they are a leader, and their actions affect others.
I avoided my neighbor for a long time after. I couldn’t face him. All I could think is that I had let him down.
We eventually talked and laughed about it, and I assured him that I had learned my lesson.
Sometimes we make a mistake and we get found out. Shame, humility and embarrassment can overcome us in an almost paralyzing way. In a fight to never feel those emotions again, we run from either the leadership position that caused us extra exposure and responsibility, or we hide from the people and accountability that we need the most.
For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity (Proverbs 24:16)
Though we make mistakes, we cannot be crippled by them. Allowing correction to come and dealing with the embarrassment of those tough conversations only makes you a deeper person of character and conviction.
Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom (Proverbs 11:2)
Although I definitely cowered away from seeing that police officer for a while, I know the Lord allowed me to experience wisdom from that situation. In the moment I thought that was worse than a speeding ticket, but now I know that was a way better lesson than a speeding ticket!
My sister still hasn’t let me forget that, and neither will the highway, but it serves as a reminder to me of the call to holy living that we have as leaders. Whether you are leading teens, a country, a small group or a family, even speeding is setting an example. What example do you want to set?