We all do it.

We see a police car on the side the road and glance down to check our speed. Maybe, like me, you mutter something like, “Uh, oh, copper,” and you ease off the accelerator.

Well, that was pretty much the scenario this week as I puttered down a side street returning with a soda to quench the horrid heat we’ve been having.

On this occasion, even though my speed was perfectly fine, I somehow felt compelled to determine if the patrol car was occupied. I cast a curious and lengthy gaze into my rearview mirror, but the sun’s glare was too much to make out any human shapes.

However, I was able to make out another shape in my right mirror — an octagon-shape standing in the intersection I just barreled through.

Apparently, I had blown through a stop sign.

And, believing that the patrol unit had been assigned to monitor this stop sign, I may have muttered more than uh, oh.

I slowed; I even turned toward the curb, imagining the conversation that was likely to ensue.

“Officer, I’m sooo sorry. I was sooo busy making sure you weren’t after me, that I failed to notice the stop sign. You do appreciate the entertaining irony in that, don’t you, ma’am?

I studied the mirror again and this time, instead of muttering something ala James Cagney like, “you’ll never take me alive, copper,” I assumed a position of prayer.

“Oh God, puhleese,” I begged as I bartered my future to redeem my past. “If you’ll help me get off this time, I’ll be more careful next time.”

I looked again; the car wasn’t moving — either the officer was preoccupied or the cruiser was unoccupied. Either way, I was left alone at the curb with my thoughts.

My first thought was no doubt the sentiment you were planning to e-mail me. Save it, my wife beat you to it. “Inattentive drivers probably kill more people in this country than any other cause,” she says.

But since I’m a spiritual columnist and not a transportation columnist, you’re likely expecting some spiritual reflection, so here it is: I mostly thought of how often we live our lives with the fear of being monitored by one of life’s unseen constables. The problem with that is that while we’re looking in our rear view mirrors, life happens right in front of us.

Perhaps what we miss may not be as life-threatening as running a stop sign, but cumulatively, what we miss may add up to a life full of disappointments. For instance, we become worried that a boss is watching our work, and we miss the smile a co-worker gives us. Or perhaps we’re worried our spouse is monitoring our purchases, so we work on covering our tracks rather than opening forward lines of communication. Watching life’s pathways through our rear view mirrors — or as I like to call it, living life in the “review mode” — is nothing short of self-defeating.

The truth is that every once in awhile, we’re very likely to miss a guidepost or a sign that God has placed in our paths, but if you’ll allow me to lip-sync the words of the Apostle Paul, I’d have to say, “Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward. . . I’m off and running and I’m not turning back.”