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5.11.2012

Why My Daughter Won't Ride In The Front Seat (And How That Makes Me Think Of God)

My daughter recently told me that she did not want to ride in the car with me while I am driving. I was surprised when she said that because I am a good driver. Honestly, I am.

I use my blinkers even in empty parking lots. I haven't hit anyone, though I have been hit. While stopped at a red light. From behind. By someone with no insurance. I digress. Sure I tend to prefer the fast lane, exceeding limits. I speed very safely.

Kaitlin is my conscience. "Mom, the speed limit is 65. You are going 72," she says with obvious concern.

How do I explain the concept that it is okay to break the law as long as you are going less than ten miles over because the fine is lower and there's less of a chance of getting pulled over. I can't explain it to her without feeling guilty. I tried once, but even as my ears heard what my mouth was saying, I realized the larger lesson I was teaching her and slowed down to the speed limit. Thanks to my daughter, my cruise control is now set to the speed limit, or somewhere closer to it.

"Why don't you want to ride in the car with me?" I asked her.

"Well," she explains, "I just don't want to ride in the front seat with you because I don't want the policeman to see me when he pulls you over."

"You don't want the policeman to see you when he pulls me over?" I repeated her statement as a question.

I scarred her for life when she was four and I got pulled over on a back road in Missouri for going 80 mph while racing to Iowa to see a collegiate summer league baseball game. That was seven years ago. Unfortunately the 15 minutes we spent on the side of the road while the policeman checked my licence and wrote up my ticket caused us to miss the first innings. It taught me a valuable lesson: policemen can point the radar gun behind them.

My daughter learned a lesson too: policemen are fearsome. She had visions of her mom being thrown into jail for speeding while she, her brother and her sister were left stranded, crying in their car seats in the back of the minivan on the side of the narrow highway somewhere near the Iowa border. She didn't tell me that until years later.

My three recent traffic stops in as many months renewed her fear of the dreaded policeman. After receiving two warnings and one ticket in a span of three months, I swore my husband to secrecy when I was pulled over a fourth time, this time for having my brights on. "Do not tell Kaitlin," I begged. "She'll never want to ride with me again."

I thought of Kaitlin's fear when I read something Jesus said in Luke chapter 12: 
I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 
For a long time I feared God like Kaitlin feared policemen. I believed that Jesus saved me from my sins, but I was afraid that God might punish me anyway. Maybe I wasn't being good enough, I thought. Maybe I'd better not sit in the front seat. Maybe then He won't see me and find something wrong.

Even though I knew that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, I was afraid of God. My head knew that God loved me, but my heart was afraid of Him. He is awesome in power, King of Heaven and Earth. Holy. Revered. Feared. Fire and brimstone. Rules and spankings.

Right after Jesus says that we are to fear God, who has the authority to throw us into hell, he says:
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
That blessed me today, realizing that Jesus said that with his next breath. Balance.

God, who is fearsome, is also intensely personal and caring. He knows all about me, even down to the number of hairs on my head. I am worth something to Him. Worth far more than the sparrows nestled in His hands, or the lilies of the valley clothed in splendor.

Since I have already confessed I deserve hell apart from Jesus, I do not need to be afraid of God. I can sit in the front seat without fear of Him seeing me. He does see me. And He loves me.

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