I stood in line at the local courthouse—speeding ticket, driver’s license, and proof of insurance in hand.

On this particular Friday afternoon, the desk was short by one clerk and the line was long by ten people. Most likely, that was on purpose and waiting in line was part of the punishment for breaking the law.

While I waited, I sifted through possible explanations I could use to avoid parting with $162. I missed the posted speed? I was in a hurry to get home to my kids? I was distracted? Tired? Anxious? Out of state company was due to arrive in an hour? The 30 MPH speed limit on Park Road was lame? All of these things were true, but they were also flimsy excuses.

I gave up and turned to the lady next to me—who had on a cute pair of pink sandals. I flashed her a smile. “I like your shoes.”

“Thanks,” she murmured.

“Why are you here?” I held up my ticket.

“Ticket.” She held up a similar piece of paper and turned away.

The guy behind me looked friendly, so I tried again. “Speeding ticket?” I waved mine in front of me.

He angled away and studied the clock above the door.

I got the message. Traffic court was not a social venue.

With a heavy sigh, I stared out the window and worked some more on my justification for driving 42 mph in a 30 mph zone

Thirty minutes later, it was my turn at the counter. The clerk explained my choices for taking care of the ticket in the most monotone voice I’d ever heard.

“What’s my best option?” I asked her advice. She must have done this a hundred times a week. Who better to ask? “Probation? Driving school?”

“I can only offer you choices, ma’am. You have to make the decision.”

I smiled my come-on-help-me-out-here smile. “Surely one’s better than the other?”

She thrust some forms across the counter, pointed to another line, and yelled, “Next!”

And all that brainstorming of good reasons why I broke the law went to waste. She didn’t even give me a chance to offer a defense. She didn’t care. She didn’t want to hear my side. She had no time for excuses.

When I reached the next window, I circled the box marked probation, handed over my debit card, and prayed I could drive well for at least the next ninety days.

On the way home, I made complete stops and set my cruise control to 30 mph on that slow stretch of Park Road. I was on the offensive. It hurt to hand over money. It made me think twice about following the rules, rules that were there for my protection, whether I thought so or not.

Just like God’s rules.

When I break them, I have to live with the consequences of my actions. I have to pay the price. I’ve learned while God’s forgiveness is vast and His love for me is overwhelming, the consequences for my actions still rest on me.

I think I’ve figured out why. If there isn’t a price to my sin–if there isn’t any pain–I don’t change. I wish I could be obedient every time. But I’m not. I wish I could avoid painful consequences. But I can’t. I wish I could learn the easy way the first time. But I don’t.

But I am learning, and thankfully, God never puts me on probation.

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