Last night, something happened to me on the way home from a women's study on Marriage. It was something I prided myself on never having happened to me before. It was something that will affect just about everything I do for the next few months.
I got a speeding ticket.
Like, a 19 mph over the limit speeding ticket.
Like, I'm going to have to appear before a judge in traffic court speeding ticket.
It was not a fun experience. <--understatement of the century.
I was going down the hill, turning the corner, and using the momentum of the downward slope to help get me up to speed on the other side. I was rushing to get home. I wasn't paying attention to the speed change. And I got pulled. I saw the police car pull out behind me and thought "$@%#% I'm going to get pulled." And sure enough, blue lights flashed on, I pulled over, and the officer, who was as polite and business like as ever, handed me the speeding citation. I was expecting a fine and points on my drivers license.
I was not expecting a barrage of guilt.
How could you be so stupid? How are we going to pay for this ticket? How are we going to afford the jump in insurance? How are you going to face your husband? How could you? How could you? How could you?
All the way home, and on the couch, explaining what happened to J, the guilt kept coming. And not just for that incident, but every time I've ever sped, every stop sign I've rolled through, every yellow-to-red light I've run, and every single time I have ever gotten angry at a motorist in front of me who was obeying the speed limit and not driving as fast as I want them to drive. All my infractions kept mounting before me and I kept listing in my head all the problems that are caused by this one little ticket.
Guilt, my dear friends, can be a wonderful tool in the hands of God because it drives us to the cross. Guilt makes us know just how far we have fallen short, how much we deserve this punishment, how greatly we have sinned. And when guilt is followed quickly by the Gospel, it can turn into gratitude. But guilt can also be used by Satan to accuse us, to condemn us, to make us doubt God's mercy and blood-bought acceptance. Guilt, when allowed to fester, can turn into condemnation.
So as I laid down on the heating pad on the couch (oh the joys of being 7 months pregnant), and J and I formed a plan of what to do at my court hearing in two months, I let guilt begin to fester in my heart. I did not preach the Gospel to my self because I thought "This is a state matter, I did not break the law of God so the Grace of God cannot fix this. I have to live under the shame of my wrong doing for the next two months until I can go to the courthouse and fix it myself." Exhausted and ashamed, I went to bed.
Morning brought the alarm clock and the first thought that popped into my head was "SPEEDING TICKET" and in rushed the shame and condemnation, the accusing thoughts, and the guilt of what I had done. But it was different this time, because what followed at the heels of the ticket was not a litany of traffic violations, but one of all the times I had transgressed before God. Every time in the last two to three days I had been angry or proud or selfish or lustful; evil thoughts, hurtful words, unkindness, judgmental attitudes, all piled up before me and I saw with more clarity than I ever have before that all rule breaking is a sin against God.
But it is a sin that was paid for.
Jesus died for my traffic ticket. Do you know how revolutionary that is? I do not have to suffer a weight of condemnation because of what I had done. Jesus died for that. And every time I have ever broken a rule and DIDN'T get caught, Jesus died for that too. Every evil thought, every petty crime, every instance that I was not punished by the laws of men, I would have to stand guilty and condemned for that before the Father, the great Judge of all the Erth. But I had a Savior who stood in my place, who took that shame, that punishment, that wrath, so I could escape.
And there is therefore now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 5:1
This is the beauty of the Gospel. Whatever punishment or fines or trouble I have to endure because of this ticket are so minor in the face of what Jesus did for me they are almost laughable. I have escaped from an eternal weight of wrath and into an eternal weight of glory and nothing I can do can drag me out from under the Grace of God. I am free. No more guilt. No more condemnation. No more punishment. Jesus paid it all. Oh how my heart sings!
My guilt has turned to gratitude. That is the power of the gospel.