Monday, April 4, 2011
"But Officer, my daughter will be coming out into a crowd of strangers looking for me, and she won't find me. There's no place to park and I'm worried about her safety."
"You should have come earlier. Now move right now, ma'am, or I will write you a ticket."
"But Officer, what do I do about my daughter about to enter a crowd of strangers all alone? It'll take me quite awhile to find a spot, and I have little ones in the back of the car."
"You should have gotten here a little earlier. I'm going to write you a ticket right now, ma'am," the officer said with a cruel resolve as he walked away to his patrol car to write me up.
"But, but-" I stammered in utter shock and concern. I waited there, filled with anger and helplessness, all the while looking for Camille to exit the art studio. Ah! There she was! "Camille! Over here." She got into the car safely and I was relieved. I exited the car and began to talk with the officer's partner, pleading with him for mercy.
"How fair is it that I get a ticket when these parking spaces are shut down that normally aren't?! I had no idea it was movie night tonight. This isn't fair not to at least help me with this situation. I was willing to move my car, but what about my daughter?" The mean officer's partner had a kind, concerned look in his eyes, but he had to back his partner up. I sensed his reluctance in doing so, however, and for that, I was slightly comforted.
I took the ticket from the officer and promptly drove home. I wrote a detailed letter outlining my experience with the rude officer, and then drove down to the police station to file my complaint. The sergeant on hand was very understanding and caring. Weeks went by with multiple conversations from the interim police chief, who issued an apology on behalf of the officer who treated the concerned mother caught in an unforeseen circumstance with an unfair $30 parking ticket. I was told that in a department meeting officers were encouraged NOT to treat decent citizens like criminals. I was also informed that the officer got a talking-to about how he handled the situation with me.
I never got an apology from the officer himself. I never expected it. For years, I had been bitter about the experience. God was aware of this, of course, and had purposed to take care of this unfinished business, these "loose ends" weighing down my soul.
Six years later, this last week, while looking at my new April calendar at my kitchen table one morning, I realized that I had an ENT appointment for Julia in 10 minutes. It was at least a 20 minute drive to the doctor's office. So, I rushed down my nearby hilly street, forgetting that I had been so mindful of watching my speeds and trying to drive more safely recently. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an officer in his patrol car watch me whiz by. I immediately slowed down and watched behind me. Was he going to follow me? Several minutes later, yes, he was.
He pulls me over and lo and behold, it's the officer I had the run-in with six years earlier.
"Do you know why I pulled you over?"
Yes, I replied. I told him I was late for a doctor's appointment. He would have been blind not to have seen my toddler in the car. As I fumbled for my registration and insurance I mentioned that I had remembered him from several years ago. "You were really rude to me. Some people you just don't forget...." I knew I was going to get this ticket.(I have never tried to get out of traffic tickets. But, on too many occasions, I have not received ones that I deserved.) He took my paperwork and walked off, having informed me that he was going to prepare my ticket.
Of course you are, I thought bitterly. And then I started crying. This ticket will be almost $500 with traffic school and court fees. And I really have been watching my speeds lately! Of all days to be running late and forget about my resolve to slow down, obey the law, drive safely....And from him of all people! And the memories of feeling helpless and worried about my daughter and this officer's harsh, calloused treatment of me came flooding back as my tears flowed. Some memories, with their accompanying feelings, seemed seared and branded in time, unchanged by the calendar. I prayed earnestly that God would help me to do the right thing, whatever that was.
And then he arrived at my car window with the ticket to sign. I looked at it and then looked at him. "I want to say something to you first...." And then I began to describe what had happened 6 years ago, how he had treated me, and what steps I took to address the situation. It was evident to me that this man was enduring my speech, hardened and unconcerned. He hadn't remembered the incident. "But," I finally got to this point, "I'm a Christian and I forgive you. I wish you well and I'm sure that you're a different officer now." I avoided snide, sarcastic comments and spoke from my heart. I did wish him well. I still do.
As I was driving away, I continued to cry. I so wanted to remind God that I had been trying to drive the speed limit and that this ticket seemed so unfair. I resolved, however, that I was going to thank God for this situation. Somehow in all of this God was at work for my betterment and his glory. "Thank you, God," I said passionately and sincerely. "I trust you." Moments later, I felt his Spirit impressing upon me that the time had come to acknowledge this bitterness, this ugly cancer in my soil, that had been festering for years over this issue. This ticket forced me to confront this man face to face and forgive him. My assignment from God, if I choose to accept it, is to pray for this man as an evidence of forgiving him, despite his lack of remorse or acknowledgement.
I choose to accept it.
And ironically, my doctor got called out on an emergency 10 minutes before I arrived at his office. The appointment had been cancelled. Had I entirely forgotten about the appointment till much later it wouldn't have mattered. Except to God, who obviously had a different plan for me that day.
Thank you, Lord Jesus.