Major roadworks were being conducted across the island, particularly in the business and commercial districts. These road construction projects were part of the Jamaican Government’s ambitious plan to improve an aging, poorly maintained road network. These projects were, they said, part of preparing the country for economic progress, for which reliable transportation networks were key.
But the works resulted in closure of many roads and diverting motorists to minor roads, many that were longer, more circuitous routes. It was Tuesday, September 4, 2018: back-to-school time for kindergarten, primary, high school and tertiary level students. This meant traffic gridlock as students made their way to and from school. Concerned about the potential for traffic chaos, scores of police officers were deployed at major roads and intersections in Kingston and the dormitory communities surrounding the bustling capital city.
I was driving home that afternoon and breathed a sigh of relief that I had made it through nearly two hours of traffic- a journey that, without traffic, is 20 minutes long. I was only about 4 minutes from home. I made a right turn at the gas station, then crossed into the lane on my left. I was greeted by an officer in the middle of the road with his palm towards me and a stern look on his face. He had just stopped a silver Subaru Impreza hatchback in front of me- a shade darker and model older than my car. I watched as another officer beckoned that car on. It was me they wanted.
“Pull over,” the officer in the road said.
“Hello, officer,” I said cheerfully as soon as I got onto the soft shoulder.
“You know why I stopped you?”
“It’s a routine spot check, right?” I say while searching for my car papers: insurance, registration. I frowned when I realised I’d left my driver’s licence at the office. I had no form of identification on me.
“No ma’am”. He pointed in the direction I had come from. I still was not following. He saw the confusion on my face and said:
“Did you see a line in the road back there?”
I wasn’t sure what to say. Was there a line?
“There was an unbroken line, miss, and you crossed it.”
“Ohhhhh…” I said softly as I realized what I had done.
“And you will be prosecuted,” he added, solemnly and with finality.
I had visions of appearing in a hot, cramped courtroom, sitting and waiting for hours before the matter came up for mention, pleading my case to an unfeeling judge, paying a hefty fine. I had never gotten a traffic ticket before. I was scheduled to leave the island in two weeks and would have to change my travel plans.
“Please officer, I didn’t realise there was a line… just give me a chance. I promise I won’t ---”
“You know how many people this afternoon have been swearing on Jesus that it’ll be their last time?”
“Well, I won’t swear on Jesus, officer, though I am a Christian and I’m an officer of the law - like you. An attorney.” I say, hoping he will show me professional courtesy.
“Well then, would know that ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
I said nothing. I was in a panic and didn’t know what to say. My throat was dry.
“You do know that, right?” he asked.
I nodded “yes…But—” His eyes told me to go no further. After a long pause, he said:
“Alright. I’m going to just let you go with a warning. It’s your lucky day.”
“Thank you so much, officer!”
I trembled with relief. I hurriedly put away my car papers and before he could change his mind, I drove away—not too fast, as he was still watching. I then saw the other officer across the road and realised they are a tag team. The officer across the street was a spotter—his eyes were fixed on the broken line and oncoming traffic. As I drove off, he yelled: “Black car!” and then his colleague walked into the road again and stopped the law-breaking motorist.
The Unbroken Line in Life
On the way home, apart from thanking God (note: I am not advocating that you break the traffic laws and then expect God to get you out of it), I did something else. I thought about how I could have made such a big mistake. I had driven that way countless times. I go on autopilot when I am in that area. I thought about how unthinking I had been. I had developed a habit I wasn’t even conscious of. I didn’t set out to cross the line. I have seen others do it routinely too - I just didn’t even think about. Over time, I didn’t even see the line anymore and that stunned me. It stunned me because the line was there, plain as day. Since then, I have been sure never to cross that, or any other unbroken line, in the road. I became more conscious of these lines. I noticed them, for the first time, on roads I’d travelled on before.
Have you ever experienced something similar? You’re cruising along, not realizing until the stark reality is pointed out to you: that you have gone horribly wrong? You’ve broken the line. How many little compromises of your values do you make, incrementally, and justify enough times, until you outright are no longer adhering to those values?
For Christians, these compromises may come in our personal relationships or maybe our behaviour at work. One minute, you and that guy or girl you are dating are kissing, next it’s touching, then more and more. You used to feel some guilt about it but now, as long as you’re not fully having sex you justify that it is okay. Or maybe that good-looking co-worker keeps flirting with you, even though they know you’re married and it feels good, seems harmless and soon you are texting them late at night, sometimes racy pictures, thinking about them, going to lunch one-on-one, hiding it from your spouse, pulling away from your partner until you are in a full blown emotional affair? Maybe you start to get to work a few minutes late, now you are routinely late and spend hours online or on social media doing anything but work?
These are just three examples but this behaviour can manifest in a myriad of ways.
A Day of Reckoning
One day, though, there will be a reckoning. There always is when we break the law. The good judge, God, will point out the gap between what we know to be right and what we are actually doing. At that point, we will ask- no, beg and plead desperately for mercy. It will be too late. The consequences of your decision will mean eternal separation from God after you die. And it will surprise you because you didn’t expect it. You didn’t see that outcome coming. You thought you were a Christian.
In Matthew Chapter 7 verses 21-23 New King James Version (NKJV), Jesus describes it like this:
The lawlessness you practice, you cannot escape its results.
The good news is: mercy is available and it’s available to all now. You don’t have to receive the punishment you deserve. Repent. Seek God. Accept Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to change your behaviour. Listen to His urgings, respond to his nudge. Do what is right. God’s mercy is unending. You can start over. Don’t wait. You may not get another chance.