Elizabeth had her first car accident only two months after getting her license. By the grace of God, she emerged unscathed! She was out scouting sites for shoots and took a curve too quickly resulting in her flipping the car, not once, but twice, ultimately landing in a field. Again, she was and is fine; she was wearing her seatbelt (and, having been taught by her flight instructor on how to flip a plane had a sense of what to do). A testimony to the car manufacturer was that the frame was still intact when she finally landed right-size up. Praise be to God!
As a minor, appearance in traffic court was mandatory. It was an extraordinary experience in which the magistrate used the accidents of five teens as a teaching opportunity for all present. She did not mince words as she reiterated that driving was a privilege and not a right. Everyone in the court was reminded that there is a cost to every decision we make—whether conscious or not! She was especially impatient with the “I don’t know” responses, underscoring how such responses reflected that the teen was not yet ready to take on the responsibility of driving.
The magistrate modeled authority that was strong, caring, and wise. To those who took responsibility for their actions, she was tough, but compassionate. To those who hedged (or worse yet, lied) she was showed little patience and charged them to the full extent of the law. Elizabeth left the court with a deep respect for how the magistrate carried out her duties.
As a parent, I was proud of how my child took full responsibility for her actions. When asked to describe what happened, she simply said: I was driving too fast and lost control of the car on a curve. She didn’t blame ODOT for bad road design or say she didn’t know how fast she was going. (The boy, who was in court for speeding over 100 mph, belatedly learned that only make things worse!) She took responsibility for self. As Dick said, that will serve her well in life.
In a day when we malign authority, I was reminded of the original intent of justice: to restore right relationship. Whether all the kids present understood it or not, the magistrate was seeking to restore right relationship. Freedom—in the form of a driver’s license, in this case—does not give us the right to do whatever we want. Rather, freedom is a privilege to live and serve as a citizen of this world.
As the apostle Paul reminds us: For freedom Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1).