A few months ago, I got into a car accident. I was trying to get out of the way of oncoming traffic, so I threw our car into reverse and slammed on the gas, and didn’t happen to notice the car that had pulled up behind me. Whoops.
To be honest, it wasn’t really a bad accident. The damage to our car is basically non-existent, and the other guy’s car was a little scratched and a little dented, but certainly nothing serious. We called insurance and moved on. I think he was kind of pissed, but I don’t really blame him, honestly. I probably would have been, too, if some moron backed into me.
Now, a little bit of backstory is important here; my wife (who is wonderful and amazing, even though I don’t talk about her much) likes to save money. She likes to save money to the point that she’ll buy two 24-ounce containers of apple juice at the store for $2.47, rather than getting one 48-ounce container for $5.00. On the other hand, I’m not a big stickler for details like that. The six cents that I saved buying the smaller apple juice containers isn’t worth the time it takes for me to figure out the difference (especially because I’m terrible at arithmetic). I wouldn’t say that I am free and careless with my money — I certainly agonize over big purchases quite a bit — but I’m just not as concerned about it.
So back to this fender bender. I’m sitting in the car, thinking about things. And, if it had just been me, I don’t think I would have been too bothered. It was an accident, it happens, nobody got hurt, the cars still work and have minimal damage, it’s about the best possible bad situation you could ask for. If it were just me, I would’ve paid whatever money needed to be paid, and moved on with my life.
However, I’m sitting in the car thinking about the accident, and I’m just watching dollar signs flash before my eyes. I have no idea how expensive repairs are going to be (though we do have insurance to cover these things), but I’m sure it’s going to be at least a billion dollars, and eat up all the money that we have in savings, and all I can think about is how angry my wife is going to be when she finds out that all the times she’s saved 6 cents at the grocery store have been tossed out the window because of my stupidity.
But of course, I’m sure you know what happens. I call her to let her know, and it’s like the money isn’t even an issue. I’m positive that she wasn’t happy about it, and I’m willing to bet that the cost of repairs crossed her mind, but at that moment, it wasn’t important. As a good friend of mine described it later, it was a moment of grace.
The trouble I have with grace, though, is that I don’t trust it. You know the saying, if something’s too good to be true, it probably is. So I get off the phone with my wife, and the first thing that goes through my head is, “She’s just faking it so I’ll feel better; she’ll get mad at me later.” I find myself in life constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. Life is hard, bad things happen to good people, and somewhere lurking in the wings is a big monster with pointy teeth named “Comeuppance”, and it’s waiting for me.
It goes without saying that these aren’t always the most pleasant glasses to view life through. What’s more, it makes belief in a God who is all about grace really difficult.
But the good thing about grace — real grace — is that it doesn’t give up trying after a while. There’s no grace period (heh. aheh) on it; it’s good forever, even if I can’t or won’t or don’t want to look through my fear and failure to accept it. This is an incredibly tough lesson to learn, at least for me, but I’m convinced it’s important. Jesus asks those who follow him to start acting like him, and that means I need to take off the skeptic’s glasses every once in a while and start learning how to accept grace.
This seems like a stupid lesson. I mean, who wouldn’t want to do this? Who wouldn’t want grace? Well, I don’t, a lot of the time. I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights I’ve had worrying about grace, waiting for the next bad thing to happen, and refusing to believe that God is good. Worrying that if I screw something up that I won’t be able to get back on track and my entire life is hosed. But the only thing all this worrying has accomplished is to distract me from things that are important to me: living joyfully; loving people; worshiping God.
I can’t tell you how to stop worrying about the next bad thing that’s going to happen, or how to live a life that is comfortable with the idea of grace, because I’m still figuring it out myself. But I can tell you that in the brief moments I have where I’m able to find that peace, I’m a much happier person, and all those other things I strive for come easily and naturally.