Have you ever driven the wrong way down a one-way street? I have. While shopping with my wife and her mom in Spokane, Washington, I pulled out of the parking lot and turned left. Immediately I saw a one-way sign with the arrow pointing back at me. I was going in the wrong direction! What now? Slam on the brakes, back up real fast, and spin 180 degrees around like on TV? No.
I was only half a block away from the safety of a two-way street where I could merge in and be going the right direction, when a red car with something like a badge on the visor, driven rapidly (almost rabidly) by a man with an angry look on his face, nearly ran into me!
He was yelling and pointing as I dodged him and turned right on the two-way street. I said “I think that was the police! I’m toast!” Sure enough, a couple of blocks later he came, blue light blazing. I pulled over and waited nervously for the inevitable rebuke and ticket.
He nearly sprinted to my window and said “Why didn’t you stop when I pointed at you back there? Didn’t you know I was driving a police car?” I replied, “Well sir, I didn’t know you were a police officer, or I surely would have” and meekly added “Your car is unmarked.”
“Didn’t you see the badge on the visor? How long were you driving the wrong way on a one way?”
“About half a block. I saw the one-way sign and knew that if I could just quickly get to the corner and turn right on that two-way street, I’d be OK.”
With an exasperated frown, he said “Give me your driver’s license!” As I handed it to him, he said “You’re from Alaska, huh? When was the last time you got a ticket?”
“May 22, 1977, sir.” He looked a little surprised and said, “That is an outstanding driving record — you’d like to keep that intact, wouldn’t you?” I said, “Yes sir, I certainly would.”
He then went to his radio and called me in. He came back and said “everything checks out, you’re from out of town, no wants or warrants. Be more careful next time! You’re free to go.” With a sigh of relief, I said “Thank you officer!”
As we pulled out, my mother in-law said, “I knew he wasn’t going to give you a ticket!” I replied, “that makes one of us, because I sure didn’t!”
In the above case, I was stone cold guilty! The officer had every right to write me a ticket, and my punishment, which would have been somewhere between a slap on the wrist and the electric chair, would have been richly deserved.
The officer knew I was guilty; yet he showed mercy by not writing me a ticket and penalizing me. Readily admitting my guilt seemed to help. Had I tried to convince him of the essential oneness of all directions, or that the One-Way sign was only “his truth,” I probably would not have received mercy.
God has a plan for those of us who have taken a wrong turn. He sent Jesus to die as the perfect, sinless sacrifice for our sins to show us His mercy. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” says II Corinthians 5:21.
Romans 3:23 says “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” James 2:10 adds that if we have broken the law at one point, we have broken the whole law. Everyone has taken a wrong turn and is stone cold guilty, just like I was that day.
I John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins (which means to agree with God about our sins) He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Agreeing with God and accepting Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins leads to forgiveness, mercy, hope, and peace with God.
For those of us stone cold guilty on Mercy Street, that’s good news!
• Guy Crockroft is executive director of Love Inc. Juneau. ”Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.