A few Saturdays ago, I was speeding down the highway, on my way to a high school reunion, and I dragged my mother along. We were running a little late, but looking quite on point in our dressy best, me with a vest that makes me look a little like Aladdin and some shades from Aeropostale, and she with some brand new cream Cinderlella-esque slippers. I had even gone through the trouble of putting some Kirk Franklin on my phone for my mother, because she likes to listen to Christian music on Sabbath (Saturdays). So we’ve got our swag, our shades, and Shirley Caesar cameos, and we are feeling fine.
All my favorite people have theme music: Simba, President Bartlet, Darth Vader, Batman, Barack Obama…wait a minute, what the hell…
While we were getting on down the road, I tried to keep the speed limit down, but the swag was too much to handle and the hour was getting on. I kept a wide eye out for the po-pos but not wide enough. My mother whispered “I think you should slow down” just as I passed by two troopers, and before I even looked at the speedometer, I knew I was done for. The gunmetal car pulled out before I was done not being sorry for speeding, but definitely sorry for getting caught.
So the officer asked me the usual, and I told him I really didn’t know how fast I was going. He told me that I was going straight up 20 mph over the speed limit, which surprised me. Pro tip: Don’t get a Hyundai Sonata, those are some smooth shits, man. He asked us where we were on our way to, we said church, and hey, we had the threads to prove it. He told us, of course, to wait in the car while he wrote up the punishment, and we waited like naughty children wait for a switching after the parents finish talking.
I’ve never been one to make a lot of excuses for my behavior or apologize in weird ways or anything. As I’ve always seen it, actions have consequences, and I’m willing to suck it up and take my just desserts. That black and white “SPEED LIMIT 65” sign didn’t have a lot of ambiguity to it, and I knew that.
He told me that I was going straight up 20 mph over the speed limit, which surprised me.
The switching, however, never came. Mr. Officer came back to the car and said that instead of a ticket, he gave me a citation for not using my blinkers when I pulled over to the side, a bogus citation. Money out of the pocket, no points on the license. (All told, there better be a goddam brick at City Hall with my name on it for $193). I recognized the gesture for what it was, said thank you, and drove away. My mother had a very specific interpretation for what had happened.
“That was GOD!” she said over and over. “Nothing but the power of grace!”
If that’s God, I really don’t understand him. I mean, at the time, I was planning a $1500 trip to Sicily, had a full time job, and had nothing prior on my license anyway, not risking suspension or anything. Not the picture of distress, really. What is this God thing that needs to bust in and stop some entitled middle class kid from receiving the consequences of his actions? The stakes were pretty low, like the depletion of my souvenir money, I guess. Arguably, a ticket would’ve taught me my lesson better, huh?
As an atheist, the problem that I have with attributions like my mother’s is not that I am attempting to suppress knowledge of the everlasting God, or refusing to accept counter arguments. It’s plainly that even supposing many things, you don’t know what is God and what isn’t. When something great happens, God is instantly understandable, clear as day, and only an atheist (or a fool) could deny such clear evidence. But whenever bad things happen, God is inscrutable, not to be understood. I don’t know how Christians make that distinction, and I don’t think they do either.
I paid that citation two days ago, and it was uncomfortable. Not insane, not impossible, it didn’t put me in dire straits, it was just uncomfortable. And given how easy that was for me vs. the world that I see that is not this easy for everyone, the more I think that if this God can do anything, I’d rather it wasn’t me he spent his time helping that day.
Let’s also remember it’s not outside of the realm of possibilities that the police officer was, ya know, nice.
Feel free to like, comment, share, and follow below! If you appreciated this blog, please consider becoming my patron!