Earlier this month, I was headed out to run some errands on a Saturday morning when I realized things were getting a little chaotic at home and the best thing I could do for Laura was to bring the boys with me. As soon as I suggested that, the look on her face confirmed that I had read the situation correctly! So, the boys and I headed to the underground parking garage in our building to jump in the minivan and knock out a few errands.
Unfortunately, in my zeal to move quickly, I managed to sideswipe a very inflexible concrete pillar as I was backing out of our space. Just like that, I had a caved in door, a dangling side view mirror and two freaked out little boys who kept asking, “Daddy, why did you do that?!?” As soon as I was able to convince them that it was an accident and not a sign that Daddy was having a break down, they calmed down. And, by calmed down I mean they spent the rest of the day telling everyone they could that Daddy had broken the car. To this day, I still can’t back in or out of a space without one of them condescendingly (yes, toddlers can do condescending…I promise!) reminding me to be really careful not to hit anything. And every time they do, I’m reminded of the beauty and power of grace.
As soon as I hit the pillar, I knew it wasn’t going to be good. But, for a fleeting second, I held onto the hope that somehow that loud noise hadn’t resulted in any damage to the van. As soon as I got out to check, I realized that wasn’t going to be the case. There was damage. And it was my fault. There was no excuse to make, no one else to blame, no way out of it. I messed up.
In that moment, I really didn’t need someone to berate me. I didn’t need someone to point out that we had better things to spend our money on than the insurance deductible. I didn’t need someone to spell out how this was going to disrupt our plans for the day and our schedules for the week. I didn’t need a lecture on safe driving, not rushing and paying attention. All of that would have only made me angry.
What I needed was grace. Someone to say they were sorry that had happened. Someone to reassure me that it wasn’t going to bankrupt our family. Someone to point out this is why we have insurance. Someone to treat me in a way that showed they weren’t mad and that I wasn’t going to be punished.
Praise God, that’s the kind of woman I married. The grace Laura showed me in that moment was exactly what I needed. No condemnation, no guilt, no exasperation, no lecture. Just a willingness to jump in, coordinate a rental car and get the van to the body shop. It was exactly what I needed!
I think her grace to me was so compelling because I so often struggle to show that same grace to her and others. I can be so quick to judge, condemn, point out faults and failures. It can be so important to me to make sure people understand just how bad their mistake really was. I often want people to feel enough pain as a result of their sin that they won’t do it again. I buy the lie that if I can make someone feel bad enough, they’ll change.
But it never works. I’ve yet to guilt or condemn someone into genuine repentance and I’ve yet to see long term improvement in someone because of how strongly I denounced their inadequacy. It just doesn’t work. You can spend your life hammering away on people but don’t kid yourself, you aren’t helping them. You’re only making them more angry.
This all should be ingrained in our hearts as Jesus followers because of how God treats us. He answers the horror of our sin with the grace of the cross. He answers our rebellion with His peace. He covers our sin and shame and cancels our debt of sin. He shows kindness and mercy. And we change as a result. We grow to be more like the One who loves us when we are least lovable.
Imagine how much better our families, friendships and workplaces would be if we were so captured by the grace God has shown us that we show that same grace to others. What if we walked the path of grace?
It’s what I’m praying for me, for you and for all of us this week.