I remember my last ticket. It was in 2016. It was a day of lasts. It was my last day on the air at Life 88.5 and I was transitioning to the pastorate at First Baptist Grain Valley.
I was prepared for my exit, but I knew it would be an emotional day. After working in broadcasting for twenty-five years, I was ready to hang up my headphones. I just knew it would be a tough day.
I didn’t sleep much the night before and was up at my normal time—before 4 AM. So many thoughts were going through my head and I was pretty antsy.
As I headed west, I wasn’t late, but I was in a hurry to get there. While driving down I-70, I got stuck behind a tractor trailer doing 55 mph. I’m not really one to speed, but I do like taking full advantage of the speed limit. I want the full experience.
I was excited when I saw my exit at
I-470. However, I was miffed when the tractor trailer in front of me merged into the exit lane also. There was no way around him—so I would have to wait, but it wouldn’t be patiently.
On the exit curve, he slowed down to about 25 mph and by this time, I was fit to be tied. Like a caged animal, freedom beckoned from the great beyond.
I methodically planned my escape. Once we hit I-470, I would make my move. With precision timing, I stepped down on the gas with enough force to dent the floor. The engine roared to life and any plan he might have had to deter my escape quickly dissipated. I couldn’t wait to get around him and give him, “the look.”
Roaring past him, I felt a surge of energy. Freedom at last!
Like a bad dream, from out of nowhere, I saw the flashing lights behind me. I wondered who the poor victim would be this time and I pitied the soul. To my surprise, the police car pulled behind me. “Surely, he’s not pulling me over” I thought. Although I did dart out from behind the truck, it was with the accuracy of a professional racecar driver. True, I didn’t use my blinker, but who has time for such trivial affairs at a time like this? I looked down, and yes, I was going a little over 70, but it was only so I could pass the truck.
I quickly surrendered, put on my flashers, and pulled over. I knew the drill and placed my hands on the steering wheel in plain sight of the officer. He approached my vehicle and asked, “can I see your driver’s license and registration?” “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought. Naturally, I didn’t say that out loud. “Yes sir,” I said and forfeited my personal documents.
After a few moments he returned and said, “Sir, you were doing 70-mph in a 55-mph zone.” I was shocked. “That can’t be right,” I thought. But I knew better than to argue. I would take this one to the Supreme Court if I had to. He was clearly in the wrong and, knowing his error, he probably wouldn’t even show up. I was compliant and respectful and the last thing I wanted was a ticket.
I wanted to tell him of my admiration for police officers. I wanted to tell him that he was likely mistaken about the drop in the speed limit. Perhaps he didn’t sleep well either. I wanted to tell him we had several police officers in our family. I wanted to tell him it was an emotional day and if he did not give me a ticket, he would be helping my emotional well-being. But I said nothing but, “Thank for your service. I appreciate what you do in keeping us safe.”
I was mad the rest of the day and couldn’t wait to come through that area again to justify my behavior.
Several days later, I drove back that way, and sure enough, a speed limit sign was there that said 55-mph! At first, I thought that maybe he snuck out that night and put it there, but I knew better. I just missed it. He was not wrong. I was. Bottom line: If I was doing the speed limit, I would not have gotten a ticket. The fact that I was unaware of this fact is irrelevant.
Laws are in place for society “as a whole” and not necessarily to benefit me personally. It’s not about me. It’s about us. The fact that I don’t agree with the law or don’t think it’s fair is irrelevant.
The Bible talks about obeying the law. In Romans it says this:
“Everyone must obey state authorities, because no authority exists without God's permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God. Whoever opposes the existing authority opposes what God has ordered; and anyone who does so will bring judgment on himself. For rulers are not to be feared by those who do good, but by those who do evil. Would you like to be unafraid of those in authority? Then do what is good” (Romans 13:1-3, NIV).
The only time a Christian is permitted to “defy” a law is when the law violates the Word of God (perhaps the subject of another article). However, obeying the speed limit does not fall into that category. God gives governmental authorities the right to impose regulations for the good of society.
I am always a little disappointed when I read social media posts that undermine the work and character of law enforcement. Phrases like, “Cops just ain’t got nothing better to do but harass people,” are completely unfair and, I believe, detrimental to society.
Having several family members and close friends in law enforcement, I know that they are not just out to harass people. But, they are sworn to uphold the law—whether they like it or even agree with it.
That’s the power of law. The officer that pulled me over might have thought, “hey man, sorry, this is really dumb to be 55 mph right here, so I’ll let you off,” but opinions are meant to be shared over coffee. His job is to support and enforce the law.
Police officers and pastors have a few things in common when it comes to engaging with the public. For one, everyone I meet is a saint. When they find out that I am a pastor, they apologize for their salty language and immediately put up a shield saying, “sorry Reverend.” The same is true with those in law enforcement. Everyone they pull over has done nothing wrong and they try to justify their behavior.
Another thing that we have in common is that we generally see more of the “bad” in people than the good. We see incredible hurt, sadness, and pain. We’re lied to and taken advantage of constantly. We carry this burden alone, sometimes to our own detriment.
I pray daily for a close family member who is in law enforcement. I pray for his physical safety, but I also pray for his heart. I don’t want him to become jaded or bitter because of the constant negativity coming at him. He has to deal with people who don’t like what he does, he gets torn up in the media, and he is belittled on social media.
True, there are a few “bad eggs.” But, there are also bad auto mechanics, teachers, politicians, plumbers, and even preachers who take advantage of the system and other people. It’s an unfortunate part of life.
Most of those in law enforcement are good people. These men and women are serving a calling and protecting us. Like us, they are human beings with feelings and families.
Law is in place to protect everyone. And, there are people out there who are lawbreakers. As an organized society, those who break the law must be dealt with. We trust those in law enforcement to do that.
Through conversation with family and friends, I’ve heard stories of those who were pulled over for a minor violation, protesting that they were innocent of any wrongdoing, only to find out that they were hiding a serious offense.
The easiest way not to get in trouble with the law is to obey the law. If you don’t like the law, go through the proper channels and change it. Until then, please understand, an organized society needs to support those who enforce the law. Police officers are not just hanging around looking to cause the average person terror or misfortune. They are just doing their job. A job that we have empowered them to do. I am thankful for them.
It’s not a law, but it would be good if, we as a community, we would support those who protect us.
I’m hoping that my last ticket was, indeed, my last ticket. One thing I can promise you is, whenever I merge onto I-470 west from I-70, I drop down to 55. After all, it’s the law.
Dr. Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Speech, and freelance writer.