So, I got a speeding ticket. I earned it. But, in my defense, I had already realized I was speeding and had started to slow down when the police pulled me over. Turns out I was speeding even more than I thought - I thought the speed limit was 60 and it was only 55. whoops!
I was prepared to accept the consequences for my actions, after all, I do speed a lot. it's a natural result of always being late for everything which is a natural result of trying to do too much. I have received several warnings but no traffic tickets except for one when I was about twenty. I was due.
I went to the courthouse to pay. They nearly had to call the paramedics when I found out how much the ticket was going to be and almost had a heart attack. $90!!!! What? I wasn't going that fast and I was already slowing down. It is a state mandated fee they said. I was given the choice to talk to the judge about it or just pay.
I chose the judge.
I went back later that night when court was in session. I admit, I have watched a lot of legal drama so I was not prepared for this courtroom: brown folding chairs on commercial grade orange carpet with specks of brown and yellow. [I got caught speeding in a small town] There was a podium and 'the bench'. The small handful of us gathered had to rise when the judge came in. Seriously? protocol in a room from the 70's? Okay that's a bit harsh but the atmosphere was so casual I didn't know why they had to make everything so official.
And then the Judge spoke. And he was very official. I'd planned on reading a book until my turn but I hardly dared take it out of my bag. This guy took his responsibilities seriously. I straightened in my chair.
I found out quickly that people who came with a lawyer got taken care of first. Again, they were so official I really wondered if I was prepared to stand before the judge. Was I supposed to call him 'Your Honor' too? How would I know when I was supposed to use that title? I was glad others without lawyers got up before I did. They showed respect but didn't use a lot of legal jargon the way the lawyers did. Most of us were in for traffic violations but one guy had anger issues and was questioned about whether he was keeping up on his probation and taking classes for it. I thought he'd looked kind of brooding but who am I to judge? [pun intended]
When it was my turn I pointed out that I had a very clean record and even though I was speeding I had been slowing down. The judge focused on my admission of guilt. I guess if I had said not guilty or asked for leniency because of my record things might have gone differently but when he started the whole thing out by reading a statement which said speeding was a Class C Misdemeanor and punishable by 3 months in jail or $1000.00 fine, $90 didn't seem so bad. I had no idea speeding was so illegal. I didn't dare say I wasn't guilty because I was. The only reason I was there was to ask if the fine could be reduced. After a bit of discussion the Judge did reduce it - by $10. Grrrr. I understood. I really did. But I'd been honest - AND I was slowing down.
I had to pay $80.
I still find myself speeding. Some places it isn't hard to stay in the speed limit and I usually don't exceed it. I just stretch it to the max. But slowing down isn't the only thing I learned from this experience.
I've been taught, and have taught, for years that you can make choices but you can't choose the consequences. The consequence of speeding [ and getting caught] was a ticket. That was expected. What I didn't expect was the 'punishment' by way of a fine. I knew I would have to pay but I had no idea it would be so much. It is not easy to come up with that much money when you're on a tight budget. [some of the other defendants - I hope that's the correct term - had to pay huge fines so mine wasn't too bad] I have so many other places I could use that money but I made a choice that led to a consequence that had a high price. The judge and the state set the laws and the consequences and my choice left me with no choice but to pay - unless I wanted worse consequences. Ouch.
There are a lot of similarities here to the Atonement and the Final Judgment. First, it helps to have an Advocate [or an attorney] who knows the laws and the language and can articulate the case and have some authority with the Judge. Second, all choices have consequences and some are larger than others. The people with moving violations had different fines than those with DUI's. Third, all of us got the chance to plead our case, explain our actions. The Judge considered everything, asked probing questions, was concerned that the 'sentence' be something that would keep law violators from putting themselves and others in harms way again. He was really a good judge and it made me think of the compassion Heavenly Father and Jesus show us. They want to help us correct our ways so we can have the best Life. Consequences, fines, and penalties help keep us on a good course. It's actually an act of love and concern.
I am out $80. But I learned a great lesson. Sometimes it is good to be judged.