Outside a nightclub in a darkened car, we waited for the new millennium. “Expect trouble,” the sergeant in charge warned the rookie cop I was riding with as a police chaplain. Thousands of students on holiday break had swarmed to our lakeside resort community, celebrating Y2K. Keg parties were breaking out everywhere.

As midnight struck, dispatch radioed our unit. Some teens on the other side of town were having themselves a merry New Year. Running barefoot down the middle of a busy road, they were frightening passing drivers and endangering themselves.

As we headed over there, word got out that somebody called the cops. Arriving at the scene, we found only one reveler remaining, obviously bewildered. The others dispersed across a vacant lot, she reported.

Our red and blue lights flashed across her frightened face. When the handcuffs came out, she meekly accepted them.

During the five-minute ride to the station to book her arrest, she expressed remorse. She was in town not to cause trouble but just to see her grandmother. Then neighborhood kids invited her to party with some visiting students. As midnight approached, indoor fun spilled over into mischief in the streets. Then everybody evacuated, abandoning her to face captivity and justice for all.

“This is the first time I’ve ever been in trouble,” she insisted. She believed in God and sometimes attended church back home. I guessed she was a decent person whose good looks had attracted bad attention from local rowdies.

“So where do you go from here?” I inquired. “What plans do you have for the new millennium?”

Becoming a nurse, maybe.

I suggested that a quiet night in custody offered opportunity to evaluate God’s purpose for her life. With His help she could make this negative experience a steppingstone into an adulthood of usefulness and fulfillment.

I didn’t get to offer prayer. That’s awkward and usually impossible during an arrest procedure.

Actually, I wasn’t sure this teenager deserved arrest. Maybe just a fatherly lecture while driving her back to grandma. But it wasn’t my decision to make.

What is my decision to make, now at the dawning of another new year, is whether I will take my own advice that I gave to that teen 13 years ago. Where do I go from here? What will I do for the rest of my life? Specifically, what plans do I have for becoming more faithful, more focused, more loving during 2012?

Pray that God will optimize my walk with Him and my witness for Him. I’ll be praying the same for you.