Earlier this year my wife and I drove down to a part of Atlanta on a Saturday morning. When we arrived at our destination I saw that we would have to pay for parking, even though it was a weekend. So I went to the corner meter, punched in my space number, paid for the time and we went about our business.
As the morning went by, I realized we were getting close to the expiry time on the meter so I went out to the car to move it. I had a little surprise waiting for me under my windshield wiper. Aghast, I looked at the ticket and double checked my meter receipt to make sure I wasn’t mistaken on how much time had gone by since we arrived. Sure enough, I was well within the paid limit. But as I looked a little closer I solved the mystery: I had punched in the wrong number on the meter when paying. I was parked in an unpaid spot.
I looked around for the person who had issued the ticket but they were nowhere to be found. I thought to myself, “surely this won’t be a problem. I paid for the spot, I just paid for the one next to my car.” Boy was I wrong. In the next few days I followed the procedure to the “T.” I sent in my appeal, copies of my receipts, the whole nine yards. I even called and explained my situation to a very unsympathetic employee. Nothing. Despite my efforts, I received a notice to appear in Atlanta Traffic Court on September 19th. That was yesterday.
If you’ve ever had to go through the experience of traffic court, you know that it ranks somewhere close to having jury duty and getting a root canal. This was not a fun experience. After fighting morning traffic, talking to several unhappy people, finding the
room I was supposed to be in and sitting in a busy courtroom for almost three hours, I was not in the best of moods while sitting in my seat. And to think it all could have been avoided if someone would have just listened to me!
I kept going over a single phrase in my mind during this experience:
“The system is broken.”
We have all seen it. Get on a plane and you can see that the system in place for trying to keep people safe is broken. How many people actually watch that safety announcement? The reason why we all hate going to the DMV is because the system in place to make things go faster actually slows everything down. Bills that need to be passed on a government level don’t go through because the interest groups and lobbyists won’t make money from them. It’s all mixed up and messed up. Isn’t the point of these things to help people? Doesn’t anybody see this?
It makes me think of Jesus’ words to the religious leaders of his day in Mark chapter 7: “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” The whole problem that these guys had was that they failed to see that God was right in front of them in the person of Christ. They could not see him for who he was because they were too in love with the religious system they put in place to get to God. Sounds a little backwards. Sounds a lot like us.
So before going on a hate spree toward the systems put in place by governments and corporations, I have to ask myself how much I rely on my systems and miss the point. If I’m honest, I often feel good about myself when I have “done the right thing” by serving, reading God’s word, or helping someone else. I followed the system so I win. But the system is just there as a vehicle, and God is the destination. If I don’t get to him in my heart, I didn’t actually do anything.
The judge threw out my case as I knew he would. I started to tell him that I tried to avoid all this, to save him some time and the taxpayers some money. But at that point he was too busy getting on the next case, the next step in the system. So I went home, with more reasons to be grateful.