I have choreographed the morning perfectly, checked off every to-do but one. I press the accelerator gently, no hurry, and roll through town with a rare feeling of calm. At the intersection, I am first in line to turn. I wait. The green light goes stale while cars sit still. It’s like someone pressed the pause button on the world. I listen for sirens, but all is quiet. I start to get a strange dream-like sensation that all eyes are on me, waiting on my next move. Then, I see it in the rearview: red and blue darts of light circle around, fingers pointing at me. I can’t figure what it’s about: my plates are current, my tires are aired, and I’ve been driving at such a leisurely pace.
I obey and pull into an inlet after the turn. My heart thumps. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know the cause– I’ve been caught. The law shows up at my window. I roll it down and face his polarized lenses flashing back the image of my crumpled chin. I fumble for papers and pull out all the wrong ones, an old license and registration.
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” –Romans 3:19-20
I cannot see the eyes of the law, but I can feel its hard fist, its smug tug on my identity, its heavy-handed control. He lingers in his car punching in letters and numbers, recording my wrong. Ten miles over. He wants it branded in my mind. He hands me the letter of the law, my shortcomings on paper, but it’s only a warning this time. I tremble thanks through watery eyes. He shrugs me off, no friendship here. He is a tired parent, shut down in the drudgery of discipline.
That night, I wait at a red light. Sky blends with asphalt. I am determined to do that one last thing, to put the to-do list to bed and forget the day. Out of nowhere, he sneaks up on me, stares at me through my window. I about jump out of my skin. I know that face. In the rearview I see the car behind me sitting idle, its door flung open. I roll down my window. His eyes are little lanterns flickering, carried along a path. He moves me even when I’m sitting still.
“A man who professes an external law is like someone standing in the light of a [street lamp]. It is light all round him, but there is nowhere further for him to walk. A man who professes the teaching of Christ is like a man carrying a lantern before him…the light is in front of him, always lighting up fresh ground and always encouraging him to walk further.” –Philip Yancey
The crosswise traffic light goes from green to yellow. Engines rev. He goes for it, dips his head through my window and graces me with a soft kiss. My lips tingle. My heart thumps. My veins go fiery. And already he’s back in his car, hemming me in from behind. I press the accelerator. Love has come and the law man is old news.