Monday, February 7, 2011


The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

William Shakespeare

Speeding in a school zone.

When the light was blinking.

But I didn’t notice, as intent as I was on the racing thoughts in my head.

The Gotta-Do’s last week reminded me of Final Exam week. I wasn’t headed for an A.

I was worried that I might forget about something I was supposed to be worrying about. Like picking out paint colors for my mother’s apartment in the Retirement Home. Ordering her new curtains. Cleaning out ancient closets. Filling out more forms. Or something.

I was also late picking my mother up from her bridge group in order to take her to the next appointment.

Racing thoughts, racing heart, racing car=


I braked the moment I saw the man with the laser gun aimed at my car, but it was too late.

He motioned me over to the side of the road.

Heart sank, tail slunk between legs.

deep sigh.

But I left my praise music on when I rolled down the window.

“Did I do something wrong?” (The perpetual unspoken metaphysical question.)

“I clocked you at 38 in a 25 school zone. Didn’t you see the lights?”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t even notice. To tell you the truth, I’m late to pick up my mother from her bridge group, and I’m afraid she’ll be worried. Or might get confused.”


Not, “I’m sorry, I’m on my way to the hospital to deliver a baby… or a gallstone… or a heart to transplant.”

Just the unadorned, unembellished, banal truth. The everyday humdrum answer.

Then I surprised myself.

“Could you please just give me a warning?”

He looked at me.

I looked back at him.  I didn’t expect him to say yes.

But he did.

Now, I’ve tried to talk my way out of many a traffic ticket, using every lawyerly argument within my powers of persuasion… to no avail. Even when I was passionately convinced of my right, and not willing to back down. Tears, emotional excuse-making, eye-batting worthy of Scarlett, pleas for clemency… all pointless.

But this time, I just peacefully asked

and received


He still had to write out the warning. I pulled down the road and sat there listening to my music, pondering and wondering.

I thanked him sincerely and simply when he handed me the little yellow parchment.

Our eyes met again.

I had to turn around in someone’s driveway. As I drove back past him, I gave him a slight wave and a half-smile. He gave me a slight wave back, but no smile. He looked like a soldier on patrol, protecting all the innocent school children from maniacs like me.

That night I read, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.” (Romans 9)

The word mercy comes from the Latin word merces, meaning "price paid for something, wages, reward."

I realized something.

The ticket has already been paid for.

I did not deserve mercy that day.

But I received it.

Just as I receive it every single day of my life.

All my tickets have been paid in full.



Laurel said...

I thought the "warning" was an urban myth! That NEVER happens to me. If I get pulled over I WILL get a ticket. Seriously. Once when I was pregnant I had to pee so badly I handed the officer my license and registration and informed him while he wrote my ticket I would be pit stopping in the woods since I had a baby tap dancing on my bladder. So he wrote me a ticket while I took care of business in a small thicket. I was pretty unimpressed.

Anonymous said...

Oh how thankful I am for grace and mercy in my life - yet not mine to hoard but to remember to share with those along my path!


Susan said...

Don't even want to think about where I'd be with all the rules and none of the mercy!! Haven't been commenting lately, but have been keeping up. I will do a better job of encouraging - I love your blog and look for it daily!

Anonymous said...

A little girl and her family that need prayer: