Hearing of officer Mike Reiter’s recent retirement made me think about our police department and how we usually dwell on the negative and rarely compliment its officers on the good things they do from day to day.
Mike suffered the distinction of quickly rising to the top of everyone’s hate list because of all his traffic stops. Actually, it’s unfair, because Mike was simply doing his job and doing it very well.
If you know Mike, you know he does have a heart. I learned this from personal observation several times in the past 15 years when I was pulled over by Mike and, after a little polite discussion, let go with warnings to slow down.
This has been my experience with many officers, not only in Tracy but in other cities and with the highway patrol. In some ways, their responses to me have been more like what I have come to expect from God, rather than from stodgy doughnut dunkers who do what they please, as many people incorrectly assume.
Not long ago, one of Tracy’s finest pulled me over. When the officer approached me, he asked, “Do you know how fast you were traveling?” I had to reply, “No sir, but I didn’t think I was speeding, because I was following someone else.”
He said, “Well, you were going 50 mph,” and I replied, “Then you certainly were correct in stopping me, because that is too fast for this street.”
No argument, just the truth.
He asked for my license. I gave it to him. He asked for proof of insurance and registration, and I told him that I had just sent the proof of insurance in for registration, and the automobile’s registration was on my desk at home.
All were truthful answers, but none were very good excuses, and I didn’t offer any.
He looked at my tires and said, “Well I can see why you were wandering all over the lane,” and I told him that because I had just gotten the vehicle to pass smog check, I was heading over to Sears to get new tires. No point putting new tires on a car that can’t pass smog, was my thinking.
He took my license and went back to his squad car, radioed in the information and checked me out. After a couple of minutes, he came back, smiled and said, “Well, Mr. Hardesty, you have a good driving record, and the car is registered to you, so I am going to let you go with a warning to slow down.”
I thanked him, and as I drove away, I thought, “This is a lot the way God works.”
We continually commit our sins, large and small. But he assures us that if we are faithful enough to confess our sins to him and are earnestly working to eliminate those sins from our lives, he will forgive us.
That, my friends, is just about the best definition of the term “grace” that I can think of. God doesn’t have to forgive us, and there isn’t really anything we can do to be forgiven, other than to confess our sins, work on not committing them again and then accept his free gift of forgiveness and ultimately salvation.
In studying the Abrahamic religions — Islam, Judaism, and Christianity — only Christianity looks to the grace of God as the path to forgiveness and salvation. Being forgiven simply because God wishes to forgive is a concept I embrace, as we certainly cannot forgive or save ourselves.
But grace doesn’t mean that I can continue to commit the same infractions over and over without eventually suffering repercussions.
Still, if we are faithful and are honestly penitent so as not to commit them again, he is faithful and just to forgive them. Wow!
Next time you are driving down the corridor of your life and see the old red-and-blue flashing in the mirror from behind, just remember: The odds are that you are guilty. But if you are pleasant, truthful and penitent, you, too, may be forgiven through grace.
• Dave Hardesty, a satellite communications engineer, is among a select group of local residents with columns in the Tracy Press.