Today we headed out on our first vacation this summer.  We pulled out of the driveway about 7:30am and headed to New York City to see my daughter who is visiting the Big Apple for a health seminar.  After a couple of hours on the road I pulled my quart of freshly made carrot/green juice out of the cooler and quickly downed it.  The unfortunate result of drinking a quart of liquid while on a road trip is finding a bathroom to use.  We looked for a gas station and finally pulled over at an exit.  In order to get to the gas station we needed to make a U-turn.  Unfortunately there was a NO U-turn sign at the cross roads.  What to do?  Well Brett, being a good hubby and not always thoroughly impressed with following all the road sign commands, decided to make a forbidden U-turn.  No sooner did he make the turn than he saw a police car make the same forbidden turn.  As we turned into the gas station the lights went on.  We groaned, this was going to be expensive.  Brett is having the same problem getting the title to his car that I did despite requesting it months ago.  So his car registration is currently expired as well!

The officer approached the car and made the standard request: drivers license and registration.  Brett had a hard time removing his driver’s license from his wallet and in the process the officer asked him if he had seen the “NO U-Turn”road sign.  He said that he had, but that I had desperately needed to use the bathroom.  The officer looked at the driver’s license and didn’t persist in seeing the registration, just warned Brett to be more careful with observing the road signs in the future.  This was a “first” for Brett, he said that he has never been pulled over and not gotten a ticket for his transgression.

Now I’m not really sure why the officer didn’t write Brett a ticket or why he didn’t persist in seeing the registration or notice that the tags on the plates of the car were expired.  But I do know that we were both incredibly thankful and that he received a lot more free grace than he deserved. What was even more interesting is the effect it had on his driving, or attitude about driving anyway, for the rest of the day.  Because he had broken a law, got caught, and then given only a gracious warning, it inspired him to be better at watching his driving habits.  Sounds a little corny I know, but that’s how it affected him.  Because the officer had let him off with grace, Brett wanted to be a better driver!  And was…until we got to New York City.

This was the very first visit to New York City for both of us.  Let me assure you that probably everything you have heard about New York City is true–especially about the driving.  There seems to be a city-wide willful ignoring of all signs related to traffic, both auto and pedestrian.  “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” have no meaning in this magical land of “make up your own traffic rules.”  Also, the equivalent of merging into traffic by yielding, using your turn signal and waiting for someone to wave you in is accomplished by brazenly edging your car in closer and closer and threatening to swap paint with your car if you don’t submit and allow them to jump in front of you.  Indeed, driving in New York City is not for the meek or weak where those who hesitate are often left for years by the side of the road, desperately wanting to merge, waiting patiently with their blinkers on for a non-existent kind driver to allow them passage.  All of this had a decidedly negative effect on Brett.  It was astonishing how quickly he was able to morph from the grace motivated good driver to the dog-eat-dog, every man for himself driver just like those that surrounded him.  “What’s your problem, I’m driving here!” and “Hey grandma, don’t walk isn’t a suggestion!  You want a piece of my Subaru!”, as well as my favorite, “Don’t make me angry, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry you moron!” were new phrases that found there way into his vocabulary.

OK, maybe I’m being a bit facetious–but only a little.  All of this made me think of how very much Brett’s Big Apple driving experience is like life.  When we experience, and I mean really experience in our hearts, undeserved grace and forgiveness from God, it can have a powerful impact.  It can inspire us to do better, to share with others the grace God gave us, and to respond to God by trying, well, to “do better” whatever that looks like.  But as the day and time wears on how easy it is to, little by little, forget the experience of grace and become more like the world and people that surround us.  Indeed, I think this type of thing happens a lot and to everyone.

So what’s the solution?  How do we heal from the disease of forgetting grace?  How do we stop the spiritual see-saw of highs and lows in our lives?  Honestly, I’m not sure we can completely, this side of Heaven. I believe we can have a more stable and daily walk in grace instead of riding on the spiritual see-saws or merry-go-rounds.  And the way to do that is to practice one thing: being in God’s presence.  However we feel, wherever we are, we can always choose to be in His presence.  Only in that place, can we experience spiritual serenity despite the actions of others and what’s happening around us…even in the Big Apple.