“Let's go inside and talk about your test.” He wasn't smiling. That should have been my clue. But I was patting myself on the back about my parking job. Surprisingly, I had judged the distance correctly and pulled straight in between two already parked cars. And I was feeling good about the whole driving test, as it hadn't been as difficult as I had feared. It was in a neighborhood with very little traffic. Just a lot of lane changes and stops and turns. Except for turning on the windshield wipers when he said he wanted to check the right turn signal I thought I had done pretty well.
The two of us squeezed past the long line of people that still wrapped around outside the DMV building and stepped inside where he gave me some feedback. He referred to his clipboard and said I needed to work on my hand placement on the steering wheel and that I needed to be sure to come to a complete stop before reaching a stop sign. Then he asked me if I knew what the speed limit was in the school zone. “20 mph,” I remembered that sign clearly and had been wondering as I drove by it if 20 mph was supposed to be all the time or just when it was flashing. I did slow down, but it wasn't enough.
“Do you know how fast you were going?”
“You were going 30.” He told me in a flat voice. “The speed limit between 7 am and 4 pm is 20 mph. Speeding in a school zone is an automatic fail.”
His words took a little while to sink in. He wasn't saying “Be careful about that and go to window 4 to get your license.”
“You mean I have to take the test again?”
“Yes,” he replied with no change at all in his expression. “And it can't be today.” He took my driver's permit and wrote with his black marker “FAIL” on the back with the date.
I didn't think that seemed very necessary.
So instead of moving to the front of the room to get my picture taken, I found Charly reading his book in the waiting area (with all the 16 year olds accompanied by their parents and all the internationals) and we slipped out the back door. It was like I was finally one step away from the finish of the driver's license board game, and instead I landed on the long chute that sent me all the way back to start.
After we pulled up the driveway and opened the garage door, I could hear Jordan, David and Daniel clapping for me. They were so confident that I had passed the test. And I couldn't hold back the tears. I was kind of laughing and kind of crying. The way that I do when I haven't had enough sleep and my emotions are kind of fragile.
Later Jordan told me it was a good thing they hadn't done more to celebrate my “sure success.” I agreed. A bright banner and balloons would have just made it worse.
Thankful that while my driving test was strictly “by the book” and no grace was given to me, God doesn't evaluate me that way.
I had joked with my family last Sunday while I was practice driving home from church that I needed a bumper sticker that said, “Give Me Grace.” And maybe another one that said, “Don't Honk at Me, It Makes Me Nervous.”
Just give me grace.
And I'll show up and try my best to get my license again.