I hit a parked car in 1997.

I can only recall one occasion when my dad picked me up from school. There might have been more, but typically my mom was the taxi driver of the family (and between five daughters spanning 25 years, there was a lot of taxiing). I was 16, and Dad pulled up to school in a car I didn’t recognize—a maroon, 2-door 1988 Acura Legend. It was mine. My first car.

I loved that car. I could squeeze four friends into it, the tape player (yep) worked just fine, it had automatic windows (not too shabby for an ’88), and it had great pickup. (Not that I was a speed demon or anything—rules girl, remember?)

As a new driver, I was extra careful. I didn’t want to do any harm to my car, and I certainly didn’t want any tickets sullying my beautifully clean driving record.

Back then I took dance classes—ballet and musical theater—at a local studio. The dance studio shared a parking lot with several other businesses that have come and gone over the years. There was often this boat of a car parked in the lot that drew a bit of attention. It was some type of sedan, and the outside was covered in carpet. Carpet. (Why?) To this day I have no idea who it belonged to.

All I know is that the very first time I drove myself to dance, I slowly guided my steering wheel to pull into a parking spot, and I hit it.

Oh my gosh, I hit the carpet car. 

I had no clue what I was supposed to do in that situation, only that I needed to get myself and my Legend away from the scene of the crime as quickly as possible. So I threw the car into reverse, circled the lot nonchalantly, and parked on the opposite side, praying fervently that no one had seen anything.

Heart racing, I climbed out of the car and casually examined the front bumper. Some paint had scratched off, but that was it. So I casually took a little stroll past the carpet car and gave it the side eye. There was no evidence anything had happened to it. Exhale. 

I walked into the studio to put my ballet shoes on and tried to just be cool.

No one saw. I never confessed.

Should I have left a note for the owner of the carpet car? Should I have at least told my parents I was the one who scraped my bumper? Probably, yes.

But I didn’t do either of those things. Sorry, Mom and Dad.

parked car.jpg

I’ve spent the better part of my life explaining to people that I’ve just always been a “good girl” who didn’t like to break the rules because I didn’t want to get in trouble. But now I don’t think that’s entirely true. My parents trusted me and gave me quite a bit of leeway when it came to rules. I didn’t ever have an established curfew; I just knew how late was too late and to always call when I was on my way. Disciplinary action never really took much more than a “Go to your room” to get the point across.

(This is ridiculous, but I remember one time asking to be grounded because I wanted to know what it felt like. The cool kids in books I read were always saying things like, “I can’t this weekend, I’m grounded.” It’s okay, go ahead and roll your eyes.)

They probably wouldn’t have been mad had I told them about the parked car incident. And there hadn’t been any damage to the carpet car, so I don’t think the owner would have called the police or even asked for my insurance information. Still, I kept silent.

No, I don’t think my adherence to the rules had much to do with fear of punishment at all. I wasn’t afraid of getting in trouble. I was afraid of having to admit that I made mistakes. I couldn’t bear the thought of revealing that in fact, I was not the perfect, quiet, good girl everyone thought I was.

That’s not rule-following for the right reasons.

Again I wonder, Have I changed at all? Because I don’t think I’ve ever felt afraid of God’s discipline, as though that was something reserved for Old Testament figures who did the really bad stuff. My first problem is using the words punishment and discipline interchangeably, when they are two very different things. Christ took our punishment on the cross, but God still disciplines his children, whom he loves, because he loves:

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? —Hebrews 12:5-7

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. —James 1:2-3

So if I’m not afraid of getting in trouble, what is so horrifying about admitting that I make mistakes? What scares me enough to keep me tethered to the rules?

I think I already know the answer. It’s something I want to explore further and with God’s help, kiss good-bye.

More to come.


**Thank you to everyone who prayed as we prepared for Hurricane Matthew. God answered our prayer and the storm shifted off-track just enough to spare us any real damage here in Central Florida. We are so grateful. Please join us in praying for those in areas hard-hit by the storm in Haiti, the Bahamas, and the northeast coast of Florida. 

Click here to see all posts from the Grace, Freedom, & the Rules series.

{This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge.}

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