Every time I have to pay a fine to get my car back from an impound lot, I have a new appreciation for the concept of redemption. (I also have a new appreciation for my need to acquire common sense, but, you know, theology first, guys!)
The scene: it is 10:30 at night and every spot in the apartment parking lot is full. I drive around twice, and think, “Aw man, I’ll have to park somewhere else and walk. I’m tired and it’s dark and there’s a suspicious-looking person lurking over there. But wait! The handicap space is open! Seriously, how many disabled people are going to need to get into the apartment before 7:30 AM? And no one really checks on these things, right?”
The next morning, my car is gone, and I know immediately what happened. So I call the friendly local towing company that is holding my car hostage and we work out a ransom.
So, yes. I’m still working on this being-an-adult thing.
I was probably easily the most cheerful person the impound lot people had ever encountered, because, you know, these things just happen sometimes. I have this built into my budget. (What other people call their “Emergency Fund,” I call my “Wow, That Was Stupid Fund” because I assume anything that happens will be my fault. It usually is.) And despite the fact that I doubt I inconvenienced a single handicapped person by parking my car for a few hours in their designated spot, I did break a rule and I did receive a just penalty for it.
Also, I think about all the times I’ve broken rules and gotten away with it. If you added up every mile I’ve been speeding, every time I charmed myself out of arriving to class late during high school, every lie that’s never caught up with me, every boast and rude comment and failure that people have overlooked…well, let’s just say that a $200 fine isn’t all that bad.
When I got back into my car, I patted the dashboard and said, “I have redeemed you, car.” Because the car was already mine when it was taken from me, and then I had to buy it back again. Much like Jesus bought us back from sin and death with his death on the cross.
Of course, the analogy ends there, because unlike Jesus, the reason I needed to redeem something was totally my fault. In fact, when I went to the impound lot, the middle-aged hunting enthusiast behind the deck scratched a grizzled chin, squinted at me, and asked, “So, did you just not see the sign or something?”
And I said, quite perkily, “Nope. I saw the sign, and I deliberately disregarded it.” Because at this point, they can’t charge me any more for honesty, and the guy had probably heard every excuse in the book, so why bother?
But it just goes to show that if there is a rule, I will break it. My sin nature becomes very obvious when there are laws in place telling me not to do something. Mark a button “Do Not Push” and my finger moves toward it, almost like it has a will of its own.
No, that’s not quite right. It does have a will. Mine. And like Paul in Romans 7, my will is bent toward doing the wrong thing, sometimes for no apparent reason at all.
So, there you have it. In my little towed car adventure, I was both a picture of Jesus and a picture of sinful humanity.
We deliberately broke the rules, and continue to break them every single day without learning our lesson.
Jesus paid our debt for us anyway to win us back. And that’s pretty amazing.
Given that there are lots of great metaphors for salvation, though, I think next time I’d prefer a reminder that isn’t so expensive and inconvenient. Thanks, impound lot, for throwing in a theological lesson with my fee.