Monday, September 23, 2013

Confessions Of A Speed-Aholic

The "Need For Speed" ran through my veins, like a daily adrenaline rush. I needed it just like my morning cup of coffee. Speeding made it exciting to drive. I felt like a smooth, controlled racecar driver, just "cruising" in the left lane at an average of 75 miles per hour. I believed I was invulnerable to any driving mistakes, completely aware of my surroundings, and considered myself the "Queen of the Road."

Much like Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights, I had the mentality of the quote,"If you're not first, you're last."

I can't even remember a time I went less than 5 miles over the speed limit -- unless there was heavy traffic or before approaching a well-known speed trap. Road signs that said "left lane for passing only" meant that I would need to stay in the left lane because I would always be passing other drivers on the road. It was pretty rare if I got passed by a faster driver...

I never took traffic laws seriously and justified my speeding by the fact that "everyone else does it." But even though going over the speed limit does seem to be one of the most common violations that people break (even law-abiders), it doesn't make it "okay." But I did it anyway.

HERE'S THE REAL SHOCKER: I've been pulled over 4 times for speeding, but have NEVER received a speeding ticket in my home state (Texas) and only received a "verbal" warning each time. I've only received one speeding ticket ever, but it was in Oklahoma during a road trip (thankfully, it doesn't show up on my record in Texas -- so technically I have a perfect record!).

What?! How? (I can assume this is your reaction).

I'm only 24, but most people seem to get at least one ticket by the time they're 18. They say you can't talk yourself out of ticket, but you can talk yourself into one. Although this is probably true, from my personal experience, I have yet to get a ticket for the times I have been pulled over for speeding -- plus, each time I was going at least 20 miles over the speed limit and I only got a verbal warning.

Trust me, I'm not a lucky person.

I give all the credit to the grace of God. I deserved those tickets, without a doubt. Each time I got pulled over, I always said to myself, "Here it comes... I deserve it." But somehow, I still didn't get a ticket.

You probably still want to know what I did or said (besides the grace of God) that got me out of those tickets. Am I right?

Ultimately, I want to tell you how speeding affected my life and how the Holy Spirit worked through me to convict me. But first, I'll go ahead and tell you what I did. Disclaimer: don't count on these things to get you out of a ticket! Like I said, I can only give credit to God for giving me grace and a second-chance that I did not deserve. I don't deserve any of the forgiveness and indefinite number of second-chances that God has given me through His son, Jesus Christ. Although I don't deserve His unfailing grace in my life, I am so thankful for it and amazed by the love of God!

So, here's what I did:

  • Put on my hazard lights after stopping on the side of the road. 
  • Had my driver's license and insurance papers ready. Windows rolled down before the officer got to the car.
  • Took off my sunglasses. Made eye contact with officer.
  • NO EXCUSES. Period. Like I said, you can't talk yourself out of a ticket, but you can talk yourself into one. It doesn't matter if there actually is a legitimate excuse. They hear excuses all day and despise them. Any excuse will probably talk yourself into a ticket, even if it's a good one.
  • Said "yes sir" and "no sir" often to show complete respect. Give them the feeling of authority, because they do in fact have the authority to give you a ticket. 
  • Be honest. If you know you were speeding and they ask, "Do you know why I pulled you over?" then say, "Yes, sir. I was speeding." And if they ask how fast you were going and you do know (even if it's a general speed, like 80), then say so. Don't lie! If you don't know how fast you were going, just say "I have no excuses, sir, and should've been paying attention to how fast I was going." THAT'S IT! Even if there is an excuse, say you have no excuses.
  • Be kind, respectable, and have a good attitude. Expect to get a ticket and believe you deserve it, feeling regret for your mistake. A bad attitude speaks louder than words. 
  • Don't cry or freak out! Keep calm and collected. This goes hand in hand with being respectable, having a good attitude, and feeling deserving of a ticket. If you freak out, they will think you have something to hide, or they might think you're on drugs -- and you may find yourself standing outside while they search your car for potential drugs. 

Like I said, doing these things will not guarantee you out of a ticket.... but it might help in the process.

For example, the only ticket I've ever gotten (traveling in Oklahoma), I was going 85 mph in a 60. The officer still gave me the ticket, but when issuing it to me, he said I was "the nicest person he has ever given a ticket to." (I thought to myself, "But... but... you're still giving me the ticket?"). Yep, he sure did. How I benefitted from being kind and respectable is that the officer took 10 mph off of my ticket (showing that I was only going 75 in a 60) so I wouldn't have to pay as much for the ticket and the penalty would be less. Works for me! As you can see, being honest and respectable doesn't guarantee you out of a ticket, but it might benefit you in some way. 

But even after getting my first speeding ticket, it didn't stop me from speeding thereafter. 

Speeding was natural for me. I wanted to get to where I was going -- as quick as possible. Even when I wasn't in a rush to get somewhere, I was still in a rush on the road. I think we've all been there, done that, at least a once in our lives.

Our culture is all about everything being convenient, fast, and on-the-go. It's why most revenue at fast food chains is from the drive-thru, instead of people going inside to order. It's why we have instant meals, fast food, convenient stores, and even "quick" weight loss pills. 

We want things now and we are impatient...and that's how I was on the road every single day. 

"Ain't nobody got time for that" is right -- I don't have patience for a slow driver in the left lane, who was keeping me from going at least 10 over the speed limit. I don't have time to let that driver cut in front of me because they might slow me down. I don't have time to be patient. I just don't have time. It's all about me. And we're all selfish people, especially on the road, and only care about our own needs and our own agendas. 

We might even break more traffic violations occasionally to meet our selfish desires. We may get in the HOV lane (without 2+ people in our car) just to get through the traffic quicker. We may have a rolling stop at a stop sign, because why waste 3-4 seconds sitting still when there's nobody around? We may weave through traffic because we feel like we're getting to our destination quicker, even knowing statistically it's not actually helping us get there any faster.

We get mad at the person going slow in front of us who won't get over, and think very belittling thoughts or words towards them. We see other cars as objects and barriers in our way, instead of human beings driving those cars with families and loved ones. As soon as we get into our cars, we don't care about other people besides ourselves. Even good people can be bad people on the road.

Over time, I have realized how my consistent sin on the road has been poisoning my life.

As soon as I get behind the wheel, sin overcomes my thoughts and behaviors. Everyone else on the road is annoying or a horrible driver. Everyone else on the road is in my way. I break the law constantly by speeding. I get pissed when a slow driver is in front of me and think, "Can't you go any faster, you stupid driver?!" I get pissed when a faster car is tailing behind me and think, "I'm going fast enough, you jerk! How much faster can I possibly go for you?!" 

Cuss words and very demeaning thoughts towards other drivers would result from road rage, stress, and anger. I'm sure my blood pressure and heart rate levels shot out the roof during heavy traffic. Sin, especially non-repentive sin, poisoned me completely and even affected my life outside of driving. It affected my relationship with others, but especially my relationship with God -- the most important, fulfilling, transforming, and incomparable relationship you can ever have in your life. 

The grace of God has covered me, even in the midst of my sin while driving. He has protected me from getting into multiple wrecks, has graciously waved multiple speeding tickets, and most importantly, has forgiven me for all of my deepest, darkest sins. Even the sins I think are inexcusable. 

It wasn't until one day as I was speeding on my way to work (of course) that God really convicted me of this ongoing issue and revealed to me that I needed to stop... immediately. I was pulled over by a State Trooper for going 83 in a 60 speed zone in downtown Dallas. It was at 6:35am. I was running just a little behind to work (I had a 6:30am - 3:30pm shift in downtown Dallas), but it wasn't a reason to speed. As I mentioned before, I sped regardless of if I was in a rush or not. But I was pulled over right before my exit to work. I said to myself, "Here it comes. I deserve a ticket," but especially felt regret when the trooper when to the front of my car and checked the license plate (it's required in Texas to have a front license plate, but instead I had a fake license plate that said "Aggies" on it -- double busted.) "Great, that's two tickets I'm getting today," I thought. 

I did all those things I listed earlier (being respectful, honest, and what not), but believe it or not, the trooper decided not to give me the ticket. He saw that I had a "perfect record" (in Texas, at least), so maybe he assumed that was the first time I had ever gone over the speed limit (he asked earlier what time I needed to be at work, and the clock showed that I was running late). 

I got lucky, once again.

After I left the scene without a ticket, I praised God. I did not understand why God allowed me to get away with it, because I totally deserved it. Of course I didn't want a ticket, but I did deserve one. 

At that moment, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit consume me inside and reveal to me that I needed to stop speeding.... immediately. I wasn't exactly sure why I felt so convicted and changed about speeding and getting away without a ticket that particular time, but I knew it was for a good reason. Maybe God was trying to tell me that the next time I got pulled over, I WOULD be getting a hefty ticket (maybe two, including the illegal license plate violation). Maybe God was trying to tell me to slow down and go the speed limit for my safety. Through the words of the trooper that morning, "Driving that fast is very dangerous, especially in this traffic." Maybe continuing to speed would be putting myself in a very dangerous driving situation down the road that might lead to a serious, or even deadly wreck. God was trying to protect me, but if I continued to be a little "Speed Demon" on the road, I would be asking for trouble.

Sometimes it takes a person multiple "pain points" in their lives to change their hearts. Some need more "eye openers" than others. 

God was trying to reveal something to me, and getting pulled over from the State Trooper became my "eye opening" experience. I was truly changed from that point on. Even though I didn't receive a speeding ticket, I FELT like I had. I FELT like I had just been issued twenty traffic violations, totaling $1000, and my insurance rates skyrocketed. That's what you call a major conviction. 

Ever since that day, I have been driving the speed limit. Doing this was hard at first, but after awhile, I started to get used to it and actually came to ENJOY it. Driving became less stressful for me. My road rage and anger slowly but surely started to decrease each day. I started to be in a much better mood the rest of the day (both at work and at home) after commuting in traffic. 

"The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart." 

I knew my old driving habits were sinful and wrong. But I never realized how much it was negatively affecting my life until that day I was pulled over by the State Trooper. I was so convicted of my speeding, and yet also relieved by the incomparable grace of God. I was so glad God revealed the weight of this issue on the life and gave me the desire to quit speeding.

God continues to reveal sin to me and how it is negatively affecting my life. The problem of my heart was anger, selfishness, apathy, and wickedness. Once I got down to the heart of the problem, I can now trust the Holy Spirit to help me uproot all of those sins that came from speeding and put them to death. I am currently in the process of mortification and sanctification. I strive everyday to live a life that is more pleasing to the Lord.  

As a former speed-aholic, I now have more sympathy and care for other drivers on the road -- viewing them as human beings and remembering that God loves them too. I no longer see other drivers as objects or barriers in my way, but I can't hide from the fact that there truly are ignorant drivers out there!

I didn't think going the speed limit could really change my life in a significant way, but it surprisingly has. I feel more laid back and less stressed. I can now see that going the speed limit is a win-win-win situation (even though I felt like I was winning before when I was speeding).

Win-Win-Win Situation: Driving the speed limit saves me money (keeps my insurance rates down, don't have to pay for traffic violations, better on gas mileage, less likely to get in a wreck from driving safely-- hence less repair/damage costs). Driving the speed limit is better for my health (less likely to get injured -- or worse -- in a wreck by driving safely, less stress on heart rate and blood pressure levels, better for my mood). And lastly, driving the speed limit helps eliminate some symptoms of the roots of my sin (anger, apathy, hatred, law-breaking, cursing) and helps me to go through the process of mortification and sanctification.

What's also exciting is that for the first time, I feel comfortable putting a Christian bumper sticker (maybe the fish?) on my car! I refused to do this before I changed driving habits -- because I knew I would be driving like a maniac on a mission. 

Not everyone has had the same issues as me, and not everyone has the same problem of the heart.

Ask God to reveal to you what the problems of your heart is and the sin that is poisoning your life, and allow Him to dig up those roots (whether it's bitterness, anger, jealousy, malice, greed, pride, selfishness, abuse, addiction, etc.). Ask God to forgive you of these sins and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in a path that is pleasing to the Lord. Ask God to put these sins to death so you can experience freedom within Jesus Christ.  

Everyone has a different journey and a different story. 

Will your journey lead to everlasting life through Jesus Christ? 
Will your story be about the time you were saved by the grace of God and experienced LIFE for the first time? 

It's time to ask God to reveal that to you, today. 
He is waiting for you to call on Him.
Surrender your life to Him and experience true joy, peace, hope, and love through Jesus Christ.