Running late to meet a fellow pastor, I decided to finish writing a sermon thought instead of leaving on time. I got into my car and believed I could save time by driving fast, really fast, on the New York State Northway (I-87). Driving on the six lane highway provided for an opportunity to pass a lot other drivers. I looked at my watch and saw that I was running 15 minutes late for my lunch meeting.
As I came close to my exit, I foolishly increased my speed. Sure enough, a New York State trooper was sitting there waiting for someone just like me to stupidly speed faster than the speed limit. As I saw the red and blue lights flash behind me, I thought about how my license was going to be taken away (I was going at least 25 m.p.h. over the speed limit), huge fines, and the loss of self-respect: telling my congregation why my wife drives me to work everyday. I very quickly moved to the right shoulder. The state trooper did the usual license and registration. He returned to a sweaty and nervous (also very tardy) speeder. He asked me why I was driving so fast. I replied, “I made an idiotic choice of going too fast. I am new to the area and I am late for a meeting. I am very sorry that I was speeding.”
The state trooper walked back to his car and began the process of writing a ticket. He came to the window and he said, “I’m not going to give you a ticket for speeding today. Instead, I am giving you a ticket for an unsafe lane change and failure to register your license in NY state in 30 days (I was overdue by two weeks). If I gave you a speeding ticket you would be getting 8 points on your license (a major car insurance cost increase) and you would be paying a $300 fine. You just got to make the wise decision and slow down.” Months later, I went to the town court where the speeding occurred to try to plead down the tickets (on the trooper’s suggestion).
It worked. The District Attorney gave me a plea deal of two parking tickets equaling $150, no points, and no car insurance increase because I had a clean driving record. Wow.
Frances Bacon once said, “There is a difference between happiness and wisdom: he that thinks himself the happiest man is really so; but he that thinks himself the wisest is generally the greatest fool.” Wisdom. The ability to make intelligent choices or having a good sense of judgment. Our culture highly respects knowledge, but not necessarily wisdom. When God told King Solomon that he could have anything he wanted, King Solomon asked for wisdom. God gave Solomon what he wanted. God was so impressed that in return God gave Solomon riches and honor all of his life. Solomon became known throughout the ancient world for his wisdom. We do not need to have divine intervention to be wise, although it helps.
Many think you must be knowledgeable or be old in order to be wise. I disagree. Instead, I believe we can make wiser decisions by:
- Slow down. My speeding only got me into more trouble. We often make bad choices because we are in a rush.
- Don’t try to get ahead by living dangerously. Weaving in and out of traffic to get somewhere faster was dangerous. Not only for me, but for others on the highway. In life, we make foolish choices when we get involved in self-destructive practices. Taking too many risks leads to instability in your life.
- Pay attention to direction. There are speed limits for a reason. I should have obeyed that direction. Often, your friends and family have a pretty good handle of making wise decisions. Listen to them.
- If you make an unwise choice it is not the end of the world. I was able to plead down my tickets to parking tickets, which saved my insurance rates from going up. When we make unwise choices, we can correct them or try to improve our situation. Although I had to go to court, I was able to improve my driving record by simply showing up to try to asking for mercy from the state. Trying to remedy a situation may require a little effort on your part.
- Pray. Hey, asking God for guidance is not rocket science. Ask God for assistance so that you can make the wise choice. Sometimes, God gives us someone or something that will help us to make the best decision.
King Solomon was one of the greatest rulers of the ancient world, but even he made mistakes because he did not slow down, follow direction, and did not listen to God. All the wisdom in the world cannot make our life perfect, but striving to make wise choices can alleviate a lot of unnecessary stress and grief when we stay faithful to God’s direction.