We reached a milestone this weekend. It wasn't the most pleasant of milestones, but more of a right-of-passage that we have all been through. Our teenager had her first car accident. She is still driving on a permit so I was in the car with her. She wasn't texting, listening to the radio or distracted by her siblings. Just needed some more experience to know that she could take the shoulder when there wasn't room to stop. Now she knows. No one was hurt, the car may be done but it was an old car bought in anticipation of this very thing (you can still be praying about how we will replace it though!).
The odd thing was as I got back in the car after talking to the man in the very large, high pick-up truck we had the misfortune of hitting, I felt this odd sense of Joy come over me. To really understand where that was coming from, we need to flashback nearly 25 years to a drainage ditch on the side of a road in Williamsburg, VA where my old ’69 Ford pick-up lay dying. It had just started raining and the roads were slick. I over corrected for a fishtail and the rest is automotive history. My dad met me with our family car and sent me on to my meeting while he waited for the tow truck. The biggest consequence was that my truck was dead. He felt no need to rub it in, just graciously helped me learn what needed to be learned from the incident.
As I sat back down in this newly crunched vehicle – which, by the way is also a Ford – I realized that I had been waiting for the day for almost 25 years! Finally, I would get to pass along the grace I had been given. I would get to be understanding and gracious exactly like my dad had been to me. It was a bit later as I reflected on the moment that a deeper realization hit me: Why don’t I feel that Joy every time I am wronged? Why don’t I relish the opportunity to forgive the guy that just cut me off, to show grace for the repairman that is running late, or be understanding (though firm) when a child disobeys? Where do I get this sense of entitlement that says ‘I should never be wronged’?
Could it be that I am not focused the grace I am given every day? Grace from God that allows me to walk in His presence, to kneel before Him, to know His Peace and His Joy. I think this may have been what was driving Paul as he sat in a prison cell and wrote to the Philippians.
“For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear…Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice.” (Philippians 1: 14, 18)
How else could someone start a thought with “I am in chains” and end with “so I rejoice” except that he knew full well the grace he received daily in Christ? He knew the message that was being spread was the same one he had received - offering him grace and forgiveness beyond expectation or even comprehension. I’m not suggesting that Christians should become doormats for the world to walk over, but it is possible to stand for injustice while living out the fullness God’s grace. I doubt we could measure the impact on our lives of simply shifting our perspective from what we believe we deserve to what we have been so freely given.
The insurance adjuster should be here soon to assess the damage, but if he’s running a bit late today I think I’ll be alright!