Friday, August 9, 2013

Failure to Yield

Starting my day with a traffic court appearance was an eye-opener, to say the least.

I hadn't really known what to expect when a recent citation after a morning fender bender demanded my presence at court. I got there early, as I didn't want to start things off poorly with the judge by showing up late. I needn't have worried; the judge was nowhere to be seen. Or perhaps it's standard procedure for His Honor not to show until 40 minutes after the slated hour. Even after he had entered the courtroom, procedural business and various matters took up his attention for quite some time. In fact, it wasn't until we had been sitting before him for two full hours that he was finally ready to tackle the traffic citations awaiting his attention.

He pointed to a man sitting in the front row of chairs and asked his name. Learning that his last name was Stevens, he then directed any of us whose last name began with a letter between “S” and “Z” to line up along the side wall in alphabetical order and await his attention.

It turned out to be an instruction too difficult for us to handle. Three men apparently desperate to get out of the place arose and moved to get in line, making no effort to communicate with each other to follow the judge's instructions. One by one he called them forward, only to find that none of them had last names that fell in the appropriate range. He ranted and raved and berated the men for not following his instructions, repeating them more loudly with each offender. One by one, red-faced and humiliated, they shuffled back to their seats to try again later.

Exasperated himself, the judge next asked for those whose last names began with A through L to line up and arrange themselves in the proper order. Finding myself in that category, I eagerly jumped up and moved to do so. The rest of the group sat in stunned silence; only one other man got up along with me. Learning that his last name began with a “C”, I stepped in front of him and awaited the judge's invitation to step to the platform.

What struck me as most unusual about the strange morning was the judge's method of calling us forward. Surely it would have been much easier to just call us by name as he worked through the stack of folders before him. Perhaps he wanted to reward the man who was brave enough to sit in the front row by taking his case first. Or maybe he needed to relieve the boredom of his job by shaking things up a little bit. Regardless, he put the burden of getting ourselves in proper order on us.

And that, I realized, was what the morning was all about. Over and over I saw people whose lives were out of line stand before a judge and try to make things right. Some had entered treatment programs and were commended for their positive efforts. Others had parents with them to show a strong support system. Many asked for more time to hire lawyers, pay fines, or somehow get their lives back on track. The problem, as was painfully obvious this morning, is that we can't accomplish that feat on our own...and we are running out of time.

Not expecting to be in the courtroom for the length of time that I was, I was painfully aware towards the end of the experience that my parking meter had expired some 45 minutes earlier. As it turned out, my business took no time at all to accomplish. I gave my “no contest” plea to the failure-to-yield charge against me and finally exited the courthouse with $165 less in my bank account than when I'd entered three hours earlier.

It was a good reminder, however, that as the world as we know it accelerates toward end time events, our own final court appearance looms ever closer, a day when we will stand before God Almighty and be judged  according to the lives we have led. Happy then will we be if at some point we turned them over to Jesus, our Advocate, who will stand beside us and declare our debt to have been paid in full on the basis of His actions alone. Should we instead on that day find ourselves having failed to yield control of our lives to the One who loved us and died for us, it will cost us a whole lot more than a few dollars out of our pocket and hours out of our day.

“And all nations shall be gathered before Him. And He shall separate them from one another, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. And  indeed He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats off the left. Then the King shall say to those on His right hand, Come, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…Then He also shall say to those on the left hand, Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels…And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life.”
(Matthew 24:32,33,34,41,46)

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