No Mom...I did not get another speeding ticket.
I just made a connection in our lesson today that I wanted to remember.
Because of the size of our tiny tribe our Young Women join with the Relief Society for opening exercises each week before going our separate ways. Every Fast Sunday, however, our girls have the
obligation privilege of spending the entire hour with our dear Relief Society sisters.
I realize that sounds unkind, but you have to understand. We do love our Relief Society sisters. They are incredibly sweet and kind and spoil us with compliments and attention. And we do hear wonderful thoughts and insight during the lessons there too.
I just worry because it seems like, more often than not, the girls' minds wander and those inspired messages they so need to hear are lost in a sea of teenage thought (i'm sooooo hungry. i wonder what mom's making for dinner...can my homework wait another night? eh...probably. Johnny didn't send a smiley face with his last text...he must hate me).
Those wise words shared in that RS setting soar straight overhead and in all honesty, I can't blame the girls for letting it happen. They're bored. They're not engaged. And even when we do have a "legit" lesson, our girls are so accustomed to cruising through the third hour that it's easy to hit a mental snooze button 'til the 5-minute warning bell chimes.
As a leader, I'm constantly trying to be the go-between by making comments that might capture the girls' attention without seeming totally trivial to our senior sisters. It's likely that a solid 70% of my attempts to play liaison fail. True story. But today I think my comments maybe, just maybe numbered among the remaining 30. The jury's still out...
About 20 minutes into the lesson I started my usual musings about what I could possibly interject to trigger a "tune-in" moment. We'd been covering the basics of repentance and between the B's attempts to quietly create origami cranes out of the programs and the Mia Maids' and Laurels' chorus of yawns I knew we were close to calling it quits.
Suddenly I had an impression...tell them about your speeding ticket.
"Good one," I thought. "Last thing I'm going to do is expose my reckless driving record to the moms of girls I shuttle each week. Fat chance of THAT happening."
But it came again...tell them about your speeding ticket.
"How on earth am I supposed to relate my speeding ticket to seven steps of repentance? Sorrow over my checking account balance seems a bit different than sorrow for sin..."
I tried to coochie coo the Spirit with a dose of Chelsey-logic. Needless to say...I lost the battle. Before I knew it my hand was in the air and all eyes were on me.
"Oh what have I done..."
I decided to make it a little test of faith.
Start by sharing the story. Lay out the facts. Then have faith the connection will come.
I quickly started to paint the picture surrounding one of my greatest Freshman-year follies. I'd decided to make a big Reno road trip with two full carloads of friends. Classic Freshman maneuver...generally a low-risk venture...fun for all and all for fun. Yes? Yes.
My dad welcomed the visit but issued a caution. "Chelsey, do. not. speed. They patrol that road day and night and they will get you. Be smart ok?"
"I'm always smart," I smartly replied, then proceeded to shoo shoo his continued cautions. I'd heard it a million times. I knew that barren stretch of I-80W was a 500-mile-long speed trap. I'd be careful...careful not to get caught driving more than 10 over (that's the general rule of thumb on freeways right? and neighborhoods 5? unless you live in Utah...then it's 15+ over wherever you go).
The girls were the first to depart. We piled into my Honda with two snowboards and a pair of skis in tow, a disproportionate amount of baggage weighing down the trunk, and a sunset guiding us along the nearly deserted highway as we headed due west. We rocked out to our childhood jams--N'Sync, Backstreet, Britney--made every passenger spill her secret crush and/or vent the latest boy troubles, and drove entirely. too. fast.
When I saw the lights flashing denial was the first to the scene.
"It's not me. I'm barely 10 over. Gotta be the guy next to me."
"Crap. No one next to me! Must be me. Please not me! Oh it's so me..."
"I'll be really nice! He'll let me off with a warning. How could you ticket a group of the five adorable BYU coeds? He'll tell us to travel safely so we get there in one piece, give my Honda a little love pat on the caboose, then send us on our way. Yes. That's what he'll do. We're ok."
Then anger as I stared at my $298 ticket.
"What a jerk cop! Are you kidding?! 98 in a 75...does he think I'm some kind of lunatic? And even so...I pulled out all the stops? How do you say no to this face? Speeding tickets are probably the sole source of income here in Wells, NV. Middle-of-nowhere, beedin' (if I'd known that word then), rotten, worthless excuse for a town."
Then finally guilt. Gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, trying-to-choke-back-tears-so-your-friends-don't-see-you-cry GUILT.
"What did I do? Why didn't I listen? Dad's going to kill me..."
Sometime during the remaining 5-hours on the road I decided I'd leave out this detail of our trip down. I didn't want our weekend marred by my careless mistake and I wanted everyone to love my parents just as much as I do...which meant Dad had to be in his happy-go-lucky, middle-school-teasing, "I'm your best buddy" kind of mood. And that wasn't happening if I dished on the ticket.
"If anything," I justified my omission, "I'm taking one for the team. No harm done."
I eventually let the truth slip to my mom. I felt too guilty keeping it from both my parents and figured she'd be the most understanding. I explained my plan...I'd take on a position as a night-shift custodial worker in the athletics building with best little guy buddies, save up to pay off the ticket, do online traffic school in my spare time (what spare time? still haven't figured that one out. must have been a bit of divine intervention there...), all before our insurance company reviewed our records to adjust our premiums for the year.
They'd never know. Dad would never know. And my ticket would never have to be a burden to anyone but me.
Then I begged her not to tell my dad.
Months passed. I worked from 10-1 buffing floors every night, paid off my ticket, completed online traffic school, and kept up the oddest sleep schedule I've had to date. Mom held true to her promise and I kept close watch on what I said to Dad each time we chatted. I convinced him my decision to work custodial simply stemmed from my desire to earn a buck while socializing (not sure how I managed that one) and assured him that the only alternative to work would be my lying awake in bed. Better to get paid to be a night owl than be Facebooking away the time right?
The memory of the ticket started to fade, but I can't say the guilt ever really did.
From that weekend in February straight through September I sweat bullets over the pending insurance adjustment. My Dad didn't seem to take too much notice of my suspiciously keen interest in the report...but every time I alluded to it or tried to pump him for information I had this sick feeling he'd drop the hint that he knew what I'd done and express his disappointment at my A. my blatant disregard for his warning words and B. my subsequent failure to tell him about it (a.k.a. lying by omission).
Luckily this day never came. The insurance adjustment came and went. No hiccups there. And as the months went on my fear that Dad would learn of the lengths I'd gone to to hide my indiscretion subsided.
More than a year later I zipped up my suitcase, muttered a thanks to my roommate Nicole for sitting on it so I could get it closed, then hurriedly assured my Dad I was still listening.
"Dad I know. I won't speed. Parker will make sure of it...
"...Yes he's excited to come visit..."
"...I'm really excited to see you too Dad..."
"...Yes I know..."
"...Dad I know..."
"Dad! I know! NO SPEEDING. I won't. I won't. I won't. I learned my lesson the last time...."
And right then and there my 17-month-long tapestry of omissions fell to pieces. I had to explain to my Dad what had happened, why I hadn't told him, how I fixed it all on my own, how everything was ok....
But everything wasn't ok.
I'd hurt his feelings. He couldn't understand why I couldn't come to him, why I didn't come to him. I tried to justify myself by saying how I'd done it so I could start to learn how to take care of myself and be accountable, but he didn't buy it. Not a single word.
Bottom line. I hadn't trusted him. And I should have.
I waited quietly on the phone for him to say something. I wished he were mad. I wished he'd lecture me, tell me what a rebellious child I was, try to revoke my driving privileges, then take back
my his car when I sassily replied that he couldn't do that because I was now an adult...anything but this! I couldn't stand seeing him so sad.
"Sweetie...I could have made this all so much easier on you."
I couldn't speak. I tried again. Nothing. So I just waited for him to speak and let the tears fall silently down my cheeks.
"You're my little girl. You'll always be my little girl. I'm here with my help anytime you need it...even in those times you may not want it...because. I. love you."
I took a minute to compose myself and wait for the inspiration to come...and it did. I explained how my dad's initial warning were like those of our Heavenly Father. Just as I was on a mission to make it home to my family, our mission here on earth is to find our way back to Him. And He's given us every resource to get us there. We hear His same cautions time and again in the scriptures, in Conference, and in class and we say, "I know. I get it. I'll do it."
But in the same way I ignored my dad's admonitions, we forget our Heavenly Father's and pay the price for doing so. But instead of a ticket or a fine we pay the price for sin. Our spiritual growth comes to a halt. Our hearts break, our consciences ache, our relationships suffer.
We try to take it upon ourselves (as I did) to make it along the arduous path of repentance alone. We attempt to forsake the sin, make restitution, then never make the same mistake again. We suffer through all this but never feel fully free of our sins. Why?
Because we skipped a key part. Because we're embarrassed and ashamed of our deliberate disobedience or minor lapses in judgment, we never confess our sins. We never turn to our Savior or our bishops or the person we wronged to say sorry and admit our wrongdoings because it's too painful. Too uncomfortable. Too hard to admit we're not quite as perfect as we've led others to believe.
And the whole time, our Savior is watching us and thinking, "I can make this all so much easier on you. Why won't you let me?"
I have a testimony of my Savior's atonement. I'm not the best at using it and I won't pretend to be. But I know it's real. Because in those times when I have allowed myself to fully rely on the Lord, I've found peace more quickly than I ever could have on my own. He's here for me, every day that I need him, because He loves me. And no matter what I do, no matter how many days I fall short of perfection, He's rooting for me and willing to make up the difference. I know that my Redeemer lives. He's my advocate, my example, my biggest fan, and my friend. And I love Him for that.