November 5, 2022

The Gift of Grace

A treasure often taken for granted.

Timothy Omwega

I am not proud that I failed my American driving test twice. I was so confident I would pass the first time that I didn’t even study the driver’s manual I had received. I thought the road test would be similar to the one in Kenya, my home country. I soon learned that driving rules are different in the United States. 

I was embarrassed to tell my wife I had failed without even leaving the parking lot. So I did what any other man would do—I took the test again. This time I practiced my parallel parking skills. God was teaching me humility, to have confidence, not in my abilities, but in my preparation. 

Preparation Matters

Jesus warned the disciples to watch and pray, for they did not know the time of His return (Matt. 25:13). In the same chapter, we learn from the parable of the 10 virgins that the wise joined the wedding party simply because they prepared, while the foolish missed out for lack of buying extra oil for their lamps. 

I finally got the much-desired driver’s license after my third test. The joy in that accomplishment made me forget the heartache I felt the two times I had failed. The following month was winter break at Andrews University, where I am earning a Master of Divinity and Chaplaincy degree. My wife, kids, and I were excited because we planned to go and spend time with family in Minnesota, nine hours away. 

This was going to be my first long drive, and a memorable one because I had recently received my license. Off we went on our adventure, and all was well for most of the journey. I was proud that I had made it past Chicago, notorious for its traffic jams. We were cruising a Wisconsin highway, two hours away from our destination, when my children, ages 21⁄2 and 3 months, started crying. Amazingly, they had not cried or complained the whole trip. Suddenly they were not only crying, but literally screaming. My wife suggested we find an exit and take a break so she could nurse the little one and let Zachary grab a snack. I increased my speed so we could get to a rest stop as soon as possible. 

The speed limit was 70 mph, but I was hovering around 85 mph. Before long, I heard a siren and saw flashing lights behind me. I tried to slow down when I saw it, but it was too late. We pulled over, the police car following behind. 

“License and registration, please,” said the policeman. At this moment I remembered that the car was borrowed and my license was very new. My hands were shaking and sweaty as I handed him the papers. I prayed that he would hear our children’s cries and be merciful. He seemed unaffected, however, and told us to wait in the car as he went back to check my papers. 

My heart was pounding when I saw the policeman coming back to our car. I had formulated an apologetic speech where I would reference my kids in hope that their weeping would sway him to show us grace and mercy. That didn’t work. The officer gave me a $200 citation and warned me to drive carefully, because speeding kills. I drove within the speed limit the rest of the way to Minnesota. 

A Different Outcome

It took me a while to get over that experience. We were struggling, unsponsored students trying to make ends meet with two kids to feed. Although I was upset for not receiving grace, I knew it was my fault. The consequences could have been much worse. I thank God that I received a ticket that night, because the policeman was right—driving too fast can lead to an accident, even death. 

Fast-forward a month later, a brand-new year, and I was excited to see what 2022 would bring. One Friday afternoon I drove to the grocery store to prepare for the Sabbath. I took a wrong turn and did not notice that a police car was behind me. There went the lights and siren again. My heart sank, and my shoulders dropped. 

“License and registration, please. Did you notice that you were not supposed to make that turn?” 

“Yes, Officer,” I said. “I noticed only when I had already turned, and it was too late to go back. I am sorry, and I promise that it won’t happen again. I am a student at Andrews University, and I was going to the store to buy some groceries for my family,” I pleaded. 

The officer went to review my license and registration. I prayed to the Lord and asked Him to sway his heart. I said to Him, “Lord, I don’t have much money. I just recently got fined for speeding, and if I receive another citation, my driver’s license could be revoked. Please soften that policeman’s heart. Amen.” 

As I saw the policeman walking back toward me, my heart was pounding. 

“Look here, son, your car registration has expired also. Do you know that it is a felony to drive a car like that?” 

“I didn’t know, Officer. I’m an international student, and I borrowed this car.” The officer paused, looked at me, and said he was going to let me go with a warning this time, but I needed to let my friend know to update his registration.

I was perspiring, even though it was winter. As he walked away after showing me grace, I realized that the law I had broken was even more serious than the one on the Wisconsin highway.

I said a prayer of thanksgiving, breathed a huge sigh of relief, and went to get the groceries that I needed. When I told my wife about this encounter, she was shocked, but we hugged, whispered a prayer, and laughed a bit in disbelief at what had happened.

Sin is the transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4). When God told Adam and Eve the consequences of eating the forbidden fruit, He meant it. God’s law is the transcript of His character. The God who gave the law is the same God who took the punishment for the sake of His disobedient children. 

Such love is incomprehensible. When I think about the grace God gives me every day when I deserve nothing but condemnation and punishment for my sins, I can say only, Thank You for the cross, Lord. Thank You for the price You paid. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, that I may live an abundant life, free of condemnation.