What place pops into your mind when someone mentions being caught in a speed trap? For me, it’s the small town above on highway 6 named Calvert, Texas. After graduating from Texas A&M University, I moved to Dallas to start my career but my wife still had a year until she graduated. Every weekend during that year I made the trek down to Aggieland passing through the Calvert speed trap.
I always made sure I was at least a few miles per hour under the speed limit as I approached the city limits sign. I did not want to become one of the many stories I had heard from other travelers ticketed there. I still remember one story about a lady who was pulled over and ticketed for speeding coming into town, and then she received another ticket for speeding going out of town.
God the Cosmic Traffic Cop
It’s funny, but this is a lot like the way I pictured God for most of my life. I wouldn’t think much about Him during the week, but when the weekend rolled around and it was time to go to church I looked down at my spiritual speedometer to make sure I wasn’t breaking any of His laws. I went to church wondering what God was going to bust me on that week.
I wasn’t striving to live up to God’s principles out of a sense of gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. I was trying to follow all the thou shalts and thou shalt nots so I didn’t get pulled over by God. Just like I knew I would get a ticket if I was pulled over in Calvert, there would be no talking God out of a ticket.
I Hope You Get Busted
Whenever I approached Calvert and slowed my speed, inevitably, there would be someone that would pass me going well past the speed limit. I don’t know if you’re like me, but my first thought was always, “I hope you get busted!” It was ironic considering I was speeding most of my trip outside of Calvert.
When the Holy Spirit would work in my life to transform it in areas I had fallen short, I found myself doing the same thing. I would look at the other hypocrites in the church and hope they would get busted by God so I could cruise on past without worrying about Him stopping me. It was so easy for me to deflect the Holy Spirit’s gentle prodding by pointing out all of the other offenders.
Looking Up From the Speedometer
Now that I think about it, in my 100+ trips through Calvert I never received a single ticket. In fact, I rarely saw a police car or anyone pulled over. I also never paid much attention to the charming antique shops, restaurants, or historical landmarks of this small town. I was too busy watching the speedometer.
It’s also been a very rare occasion that God has had to pull me over. All of those Sundays at church looking for other offenders blinded me to all of the wonderful people who were serving God joyously making a real difference in the lives of other people. I was serving too, but I treated it more like a community service sentence.
How Do You See God?
It took me an awful long time to realize that I had a really warped view of God. Yes, God chastens those He loves (Hebrews 12:6). Yes, God occasionally has to pull us over and write us a ticket. This is only one attribute of God though. He is so much more than just a cosmic traffic cop.
A.W. Tozer wrote in his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, that
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.
He goes on to write,
… the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.
Tozer was absolutely right. My mental image of God was that of a traffic cop setting a speed trap and I gravitated towards that image becoming more and more like it. It was the same trap the Pharisees fell into in Christ’s time, and that so many Christians, like myself, have fallen into today.
Until I was able to see a truer image of God reflecting all of His attributes, I could not rise above being a traffic cop myself. What about you? How do you see God? Are you naturally gravitating towards, conforming to, that image?