According to New Hampshire state law, it is unlawful to consume an alcoholic beverage in or on town-owned land including but not limited to, public roads, streets, highways, buildings, a parking lot which is maintained for the benefit of customers, and private property that is open to the public. Any violation of this ordinance will be punished with a fine not to exceed $100.
When I state the facts like cold turkey, it seems like common sense. But to be completely honest, I had no idea and yet, I found myself with handcuffs around my wrists and sitting inside a cop car, pleading with God for a miracle.
It began like any other day. It was beautiful outside, I had woken up in anticipation for the plans I had made with a couple friends, spent the morning listening to worship music, writing, and reading. I left the house by twelve and not an hour later found out that the original plans I made were unraveling and we would need to reschedule. I went to the grocery store and bought a small brush, shampoo / conditioner, and a bottle of my favorite wine.
I met up with my friend later that night and we went out for Frozen Yogurt with the rest of her family. We had a blast spending time together, laughing, and sharing old family tradition games and songs to pass time on the car ride. When we got back to her house, we both decided to go for a drive and see where it took us. We decided it would be fun to stay out a little longer, go to Walmart, and buy a wine opener.
We got to the beach and there were a couple cars there. We stayed in the warmth of my car and opened the bottle of wine. It wasn’t long before the people on the beach made it into their cars, too. My friend noticed them looking at us, but we didn’t think anything of it. Eventually they left and we remained in the car. Not ten minutes later, a car pulled into the parking lot with blue lights flashing. When my friend told me it was the cops, my heart instantaneously dropped; I knew that none of it could be good.
The cop came to my side of the car and asked us how we were doing and how much open alcohol was in the car. We showed him the bottle and he took it from us, asking us for our ID’s. He came back not ten minutes later, asking me to step out of the car. I complied and told my friend to take the key out of the ignition as I took off my glasses. The officer then walked me through a few tests that he told me were normal. He had me stand with my feet together and touch the tip of a pen, follow the tip with my eyes while flashing a light in my face, had me walk from heel to toe nine steps forward, and then had me balance on one foot for 30 seconds counting by thousands. I made it to 27 before he had me stop counting. I had assumed I was doing okay, but he had me turn around and stop. He then pulled out handcuffs from his pocket and placed them around my wrists. My immediate thought was “I’m going to jail.”
The officer, however, did not tell me I was under arrest. He walked me to the car, put me inside, and shut the door. It was there where I let go and began to cry. I prayed immediately for God to have grace and mercy all over what was happening, for it to go by smoothly, and if anything, to walk away with nothing but a short fine.
I watched out the window as they began to do the same tests with my friend. She passed and sat in the drivers seat of my car. The cop then came to the door, opened it for me, un-cuffed me, and told me that I was one percent away from being arrested for a DUI, but that both my friend and I would be getting a fine for having an open container in my car. He told me to let it be a life lesson and let me go to my car and sit with my friend as we awaited our tickets and licenses.
When we finally retrieved our licenses, my friend drove the car home and we sat in her room for hours talking about what had happened. I felt shame bubbling up inside of me and downed two Nalgene’s of water to make sure I was awake enough to drive home safely.
When I finally got home from that experience, looking in the mirror was an encounter I will never forget. Jesus told me that despite the fact that I was handcuffed, I was forgiven. The deep knowing that He still loved me and saw me as the same Ashley Cook He knew before the ordeal happened settled deeply into my heart.
I think that at the end of the day, that’s the point of the cross. Jesus died in shame to take away ours. He suffered pain so He could take away ours. He took on human flesh, so He could save ours. Jesus got arrested and accused, so that He could win us over for the gospel of love. Jesus did life so entirely backwards, but unashamedly right. In human nature, it’s easy to judge, shame, and accuse someone of wrongdoing without knowing the entire story. It’s easy to get caught up in everyday stresses that happened yesterday when Jesus told us to not fear in scripture enough times for each day of the year.
I walked into church the next day and felt the weight of shame, but I got on my knees and worshipped God anyway. I went out to lunch with a group of friends afterward… Could people see that I had just gotten placed in handcuffs the night prior? Could they feel the echoes of shame reverberating from my being? Everything in me would have just went home, but I stepped forward and continued to live anyway. As the days have passed and as I have had more time to process what happened at the beginning of June, the shame has lifted in more ways than one. The endearing realization of my place as His daughter, getting to live in that adoption and truth every single day, and the privilege it is that I get to do that for the rest of my life has centered me back to what is important in ways that make me just want to go deeper into getting to know His heart intimately and deeply.
Even the hardest situations are ones I am finding to reap the best harvest in my own life lately. When all ended up being said and done, I showed up in court with my friend at the end of June, but the cops never did the paperwork and we got off free of charge.
I think the Lord uses moments like getting handcuffed and placed in the back of a cop car for good. Nothing about a situation like that is great, but when all is said and done, it is still best in the deepest hindsight. His grace, mercy, and love is something I know I have been given freely – and after the month of June 2017, I will never carry that truth and knowledge with light weight again.