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What Did I Do Wrong?
Miscommunication nearly got them arrested. Whether they knew it or not, they were guilty—a condition that besets many. Maybe even you!

It was a long journey back home. My sister Yvonne and I, along with her son Chris, were returning home after visiting our mother for a few days. We took turns driving so that the long road stretching monotonously before us didn't seem so overwhelming. Our mother had insisted on packing a lunch for us so our driving was constant except for filling her small car with gas.

Two police cars were coming up fast behind us, sirens wailing and lights flashing.

Mid-day found us in Quebec with an empty tank of gas. Pulling off the road into the nearest gas station, I reminded Yvonne that it was my turn to pay. Vigorously protesting, she opened the car door with the words, "I told you that I don't expect you to pay for anything. I was coming anyway and glad for your company." Frustrated at her stubborn generosity, I followed her to the gas pumps where she was puzzling over the process of getting the gas out of the pumps and into her car. Reading the instructions was difficult as, unfortunately, neither of us are bilingual and our high school French proved inadequate for the task.

We noticed that the attendant sitting inside the convenience store was watching our fumbled attempts, obviously finding amusement in our dilemma. Finally, she sent us help in the form of a young man who, with a superior air, pulled the necessary lever and quickly walked away with an insolent look that suggested that perhaps we weren't very bright.

Thinking to save time, I went into the store to use their washroom facilities while Yvonne finished her task. Hurrying out of the washroom, I saw Yvonne and Chris getting into the car. Quickly exiting the store, I had the uncomfortable feeling that the attendant and the young man were scrutinizing me and I left with the thought that their behaviour was a bit rude.

With Yvonne at the wheel, I climbed into the back seat and picked up my book anticipating the next few hours of enjoyment with my favourite pastime. Our conversation had dwindled as Yvonne concentrated on her driving and I did the same with my reading.

We had gone perhaps 20 miles down the road when she glanced in her rear-view mirror. Two police cars were coming up fast behind us, sirens wailing and lights flashing. Suddenly, one car veered around and pulled in front of us while the other police car drove close to her rear bumper.

"What's wrong? I don't think I was driving too fast. I was watching my speed," Yvonne groaned out her lament, obviously shaken. Two officers approached the car, hands on their guns. They now had my full attention. With matching stony expressions, the pair looked us over as one of the officers sternly asked Yvonne if she had just filled her car with gas. Puzzled, Yvonne indicated that she had. Accusingly, he said, "You did not pay for the gas." Unbelieving, Yvonne swivelled around to look at me and desperately asked, "Didn't you pay for it?" The startled looks on our faces as I exclaimed, "Oh no, I thought you did!" was convincing enough for the officers. Brushing aside her stammered apologies, the officer curtly told Yvonne to follow him.

As he escorted us back to the station, words of disbelief tumbled from our mouths at our situation. Suddenly, we were laughing uncontrollably, dismayed and amazed at this turn of events. I've found humour to be an effective antidote in making difficult circumstances tolerable. This was no exception, and the release of emotions enabled us to penitently face our accusers when we once again arrived at the station where more apologies followed, and the bill was paid in full.

… they were ready to condemn us and place us before a judge to pronounce sentence.

It was the topic of our conversation for some miles down the road. Going back over the events, I realized that the look that I had interpreted as rude was probably one of puzzlement. They thought we were brazen thieves. We had no idea of the drama unfolding behind us as we carelessly drove away. Innocence was not the perception we had left with the attendant back at the gas station. We were unwittingly guilty of a crime we didn't know we had committed. We were, nevertheless, guilty of wrongdoing.

If there had been no doubt of our guilt, the outcome of this escapade would have been quite different. There was no mercy in the eyes of those two officers. Given the evidence, they were ready to condemn us and place us before a judge to pronounce sentence. There would have been an appropriate penalty to pay.

Each of us is guilty of wrongdoing. Fortunately, our iniquities are handled by a merciful God who accepts the sacrifice of Jesus as sentence served for our penitent sins. It's a strange and wonderful process that places the blame for my transgressions on the sinless life of Jesus. I continue to struggle to comprehend this intense love God has for His children. And I struggle still to wipe the clinging dredges of sin from my life. I long for the day when I can be enfolded in His character of peace and love. `For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open" (Luke 8:17).

Carolyn Willis is the editor of the Canadian Adventist Messenger.

Originally published in Canadian Adventist Messenger, August 2004.




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