Those times when you just have to own it

The town that I live in, Southport, is a sleepy little movie set kind of town nestled on the coast of North Carolina. In fact, they regularly film movies and TV shows here (most recent being Safe Haven and parts of the Under the Dome TV series). As a result, for many months out of the year my town becomes a glorified tourist trap complete with gawking visitors and snail-going-uphill-backward-slow kind of drivers. We have come to affectionately call this the Southport Crawl. It can be annoying but we've learned to live with it.

Normally by now traffic crawls at a decently faster pace so that when I have to get from point A to point B it doesn't take me nearly as long. Yet I was not surprised when on my way home today from picking my two daughters up from middle school, traffic had slowed to an obnoxiously slow crawl. 5 MPH. No joke.

There were a few cars in front of me, but I could easily see the culprit - a little red pickup truck with its right turn blinker apparently stuck on. The cars in front of me were obviously anticipating the same thing that I was, that this driver would eventually fulfill his mechanical vow to turn right so that the rest of us could reach our desired location. But this isn't what happened.

After it became apparent that this driver was neither going to speed up nor turn right, the car directly behind it made a quick maneuver to pass it. Of course this move was illegal, but it seemed necessary given the circumstances. After another mind-numbing minute of driving at the speed of slow, the next car in front of me executed the same less-than-legal pass and proceeded unhindered on its way. Seeing that my turn was still several blocks away and that this little red pickup truck was not going to change its course or speed, I followed suit and made my little illicit traffic move and was soon on my way to my house.

That's when I saw the blue lights.

If you've ever been pulled over by a law enforcement officer, then you know firsthand the sick feeling that instantly manifested itself in my lower guts. I can remember as a teenager becoming physically ill seeing those blue lights and, while today was not so noxious to my system, it was still no less pleasant. And do you know what the best part of this traffic stop was? My two middle school daughters were in the car and they were taking it all in.

As I slowly pulled over down a side road hoping that the officer might somehow be pursuing some bank robber or serial killer loose in the neighborhood, my hopes were shattered when the Southport police car came to a slow stop behind me. I knew it. Busted.

Scrambling for my license and registration, I immediately began to field questions from my youngest daughter. "Dad, are you in trouble?" Maybe. "Dad, have you ever gotten a ticket before?" Yes, but that was a long time ago. "Dad, what do you think mom is going to say?" Okay, that's enough questions for now.

My oldest daughter seemed to be taking all of this quite well. In fact, she was actively texting on her phone while all of this was going down. Realizing that my reputation was at stake - and that the local paper would no doubt print an article about the local pastor cited for reckless driving - I quickly instructed my daughter that if she texted anyone about this that she would lose her phone indefinitely. I have never seen her phone find its home in her pocket so quickly.

As the officer approached my door, I rolled down the window and put on my most pleasant face. Since Southport is such a small town, I instantly recognized the officer although I did not know him personally. Had I ever bought him a cup of coffee before? Surely I waved at him multiple times before, proving that this was merely a slight indiscretion committed by a normally upstanding citizen. It was time to see how this was going to play out.

"Do you know why I stopped you?" he asked. Of course I knew why he pulled me over. I passed a slow car in a no passing zone in front of God and everybody. Yet I still had a choice in how I would answer. Would I feign ignorance? Perhaps I would gesture to my children in the car and tell him that one of them was about to pop a bladder she had to pee so bad. Or maybe I would pull the reverend card and promise to pray for him everyday for a week.

But that's not what I did. You see, in spite of my poor judgment, I instantly saw this as a teaching moment for my children. I had made a poor decision and there was no way I was going to try to fudge my way out of it. "Yes sir, I know why you stopped me. I passed a slow vehicle. It was wrong and I know it." Yes, that's what I actually said, but I did so in my big boy voice.

He kind of chuckled and, as he took my license and registration, he said, "Well, as long as everything checks out on the computer, I'm just going to give you a warning ticket. Sit tight and I'll be right back." Yeah, like I was about to make a run for it.

As we sat in the car waiting for the officer to finish his work, more questions came my way. "Dad, will he find those old tickets you got and give you another one? What kind of other information will he find on the computer? Dad, have you ever been to jail?" Before I could field all of those excellent questions, I noticed a slow moving red pickup truck pass me on the driver's side. Yep, you guessed it, this was the vehicle I so hastily passed. The irony wasn't lost on me. I waved at the gentleman and secretly wished we could trade cars.

My younger daughter saw the truck too and said, "Hey dad, there's that guy that made you get pulled over." After a few moments to let that statement sink in, I turned and corrected her. "No, I'M the guy that got myself pulled over." This was all my fault. No one else was responsible.

You see, it's one thing to privately confess my sin to God, but when it's committed in front of others then that can be a game changer. I have to own my public mistakes in front of my kids if I ever expect them to own up to their own mistakes. At that moment my hope was that my two daughters would see the value in honesty in the face of obvious failure. But even more than this, my daughters were also able to see a picture of the gospel in all of this. Grace and forgiveness (not getting a ticket), confession, and repentance were all on display.

And, true to his word, the officer just let me off with a warning. After all, he said, he's been known to be impatient too.

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