Sunday, December 19, 2010

Caught on Tape

A few months ago I received a letter in the mail from the City of Wilmington. When I opened it up, there was a picture of a car with my license plate going through a red light and a fine for $110.

My first reaction was, "I didn't do it." I thought this even as I looked at the picture of my car and the red light above it. It seemed so unfair, so legalistic. I don't run red least not deliberately. I do run yellows from time to time, though. If they turn red as I'm going under them, I figure, I'm still in the clear. I was innocent, even though the evidence said otherwise.

How do you contest something when you are "caught on tape?" What am I going to say? "It wasn't me." It was. " The light wasn't red." It was. I had committed an infraction, and now I was going to have to pay. I was pissed. I had no excuse.

This whole scenario got me thinking about my moral life, and how easy it is in our culture to rationalize our sin. How many yellow lights have I skirted through? Yellow lights are meant to be a warning; there's got to be a reason the traffic signals don't go straight from green to red. If you're smart, you slow down to a stop before the light turns red. If you're ballsy, you take your chances. Most of the time, nobody notices. Every now and then you get nailed.

Sometimes you're even at those intersections where there is nobody around for miles and you're just sitting at a red light and you're like "why can't I just go?" You are obeying the law, but there are no other cars around to be in danger of hitting. You can rationalize the law, saying that since there's no one around, that red light is not for you. The law suddenly seems stupid. You go through. If there's a camera, it will take your picture, and you will get a fine and have to pay. If there's no camera, then no harm no foul, right?

Maybe yellow lights are like occasions of sin, and red lights are like the real deal, the sin itself. You can run a yellow and be ok, but its better to stop, just to be on the safe side. The law is there to protect citizens, you and me both, from people who might run red lights and put themselves and other people in danger. I want everyone to obey the rules of the road, for my own protection as well as everybody else's.

But we're not playing by God's rules in today's society. Everybody is deciding when to stop and when to go on their own terms and as a result souls are perishing and nothing feels safe and I'm afraid to drive on this proverbial road. Society is descending into morally relativistic chaos because nobody thinks God is watching. But he is.

In the eyes of God everything we do is on tape; there is nothing that escapes God's notice, even when we think otherwise. Running a red light may seem like an innocent enough thing. But what if you do it and you hit another car and kill the people inside? Are you going to say you're not to blame?

When I die, God is going to roll the tape of all the dirty stuff I've done, and all the good I haven't done, and its going to be a Shame Fest, and all the saints will be watching and wailing for me and my fate and it will be 10,000 times worse than running any red light and there won't be any amount of money in the world that I can pay God back for it all. To say, "I didn't do it," would only add insult to injury. Because I've done it all, and its all on tape.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I'll admit something: I like to pray lying down. I find I'm able to relax and not be so distracted by my aching back or knees, and I enjoy it because I'm comfortable. In short, it feels less like work, and I'm not watching the clock for when time is up. I'm just enjoying the quiet time with God.

Sometimes I fall asleep. Actually a lot of the time. Is this a bad thing? Some people would say it is fine, I'm sure, "it's enough that you're praying." But people more serious about prayer I think would say it's a sign of laziness, the lying down. What if I lie down and don't fall asleep, though? Isn't the falling asleep the danger?

I like to think of a child laying at the feet of his father who is ignorant of the "proper" posture. I used to lie down on the bench in the Adoration chapel at St. Mary of the Assumption in Manayunk, and one time I got in trouble for doing it. Not trouble, really, but the overseer of the chapel thought I was a vagrant or something that was just napping. I know it must have looked odd, or disrespectful, but I didn't care. I was alone in the chapel, and laying before my Lord like a child.

Is there a right way to pray? Most people would say that conversing with God or being still in His presence is the important thing, and it doesn't matter what posture you assume. But I'm not so sure. I think my desire to lie down in prayer comes in large part from not wanting prayer to be work, of wanting to be comfortable, and perhaps from laziness. Perhaps the position is more associated with sleep, then being alert, like Jesus says in Mark 13: "If he comes, do not let him find you sleeping." Then again, I would rather lie down for 15 minutes of prayer than not pray at all, if it came to that.

What do you think, readers? Am I just a lazy bum looking for an excuse to rest, or does praying lying down have any value at all? How do you pray?