By Norris Burkes March 6, 2022
We all do it. We pass a police car parked alongside the road and we let off our accelerator.
And maybe, if you’re like me and grew up with too much “Highway Patrol,” you jokingly mutter, “Uh-oh, copper.”
That was pretty much the scenario last week as I drove back to my hospice office after visiting a patient in her home. I was in a rush and didn’t notice the parked police cruiser until I passed it.
“Uh-oh,” I muttered, checking my rearview mirror to see if “I’d been made.”
No, I hadn’t.
Dare I hope the cruiser was unoccupied? Possibly a ruse to slow people down?
I looked back again, holding an extra-long stare.
Suddenly I did see a flashing light in my review mirror. However, it didn’t belong to law enforcement. It was the flashing stop light I’d just blown through.
OK, this time I may have muttered more than “uh-oh.”
I slowed and pulled to the side to await the inevitable ticket from some officer somewhere who couldn’t possibly have missed my violation. As I waited, I began to imagine the conversation likely to ensue:
“Officer, I’m sorry I was too busy making sure you weren’t after me to notice the stop light. You do see the irony in that, don’t you, ma’am?”
I held my breath and assumed a position of prayer. “Oh, God, pu-leeese. No ticket today, please.”
A few thoughts came to mind with my prayer.
First, recalling the two makeshift crosses at the same intersection, I realized that maybe a citation would serve as a valuable deterrent for inattentive driving.
But mostly I thought of how my distraction was caused from the fear of being monitored. I wasn’t dedicated to obeying the laws. I was only worried about being caught.
It’s a human tendency to make life decisions not out of our dedication to the good, but out of fear we’re being watched.
While we’re looking in our rearview mirror, life happens right in front of us. Perhaps what we miss may not be as life-threatening as running a stop light, but potentially it can be.
Worried that a boss is watching our work, we miss the smile of our children. Concerned our spouse is policing our credit card purchases, we work on covering our past tracks rather than opening forward lines of communication.
It may be worse yet when we treat God like that, like an officer policing our lives.
In his time-tested book, “Your God is Too Small,” J.B. Phillips describes people who see God as the “Resident Policeman.” He describes this policeman as the “voice of our conscience.”
When our conscience produces guilt, we feel caught by the policeman.
Phillips admits that while God uses our conscience to inspire “some inkling of the moral order,” our conscience is not God. God is not a patrol officer. God is not about the business of producing guilt.
People do a great job of producing guilt on their own, as I discovered staring at the empty police car.
In my parked car, my heart raced under the moral whipping I had given myself. I studied my rearview mirror carefully, expecting to see the cruiser in active pursuit, but it remained stationary.
Like the cornfield scarecrows the decoy cruiser had worked its scare on me.
Contact Chaplain Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org or 10556 Combie Rd. Suite 6643 Auburn, CA 95602 or voicemail (843) 608-9715.