Sunday morning. 9:17 a.m. I’m 30 miles from home and racing to a chapel I’m unfamiliar with for a conference. A work zone approaches, and out of the corner of my tired eye I see a police officer sitting behind some bushes holding what I hope is a sophisticated high-tech water gun.
Did I receive a traffic ticket? Yes. Was it of the speeding variety? Yes. Did the officer care that I was dressed in a suit and obviously racing to the aid of my beloved brothers and sisters in need? Not so much.
But that didn’t stop me from asking for grace.
A few weeks later I put the same suit back on and appeared in an historic courthouse just a country mile from the scene of my crime. After watching half-a-dozen other hardened traffic criminals make their pleas for leniency, I was convinced my excuses were, well, better.
My strategy was can’t-miss. I took my place at the defendant’s table when summoned and prepped to make my case for grace.
“How do you plead?” The Judge asked.
“Your Honor, can I plead ‘guilty’ to speeding, but ‘not guilty’ to the severity of the speeding?”
His mouth said, “Excuse me?” But his face said, “Are you out of your mind?”
I explained how I’d been late for church in an area I’m unfamiliar with. I told him how careful I’d been that morning on the way to court, driving the exact speed limit through the same trap to gauge average mph, and how I’d been blown off the road by a school bus and a man I judged too old to even hold a license. I even made a premeditated, well-rehearsed joke that five others in the courtroom thought was rather funny. Unfortunately for me, none of them were wearing black robes and holding a gavel.
My appearance that day ended without the grace I so desperately sought. Instead, it ended with a pit stop at the court clerk’s office to pay a hefty fine.
As I drove home that day — very slowly — I pondered my life’s near-constant quest for grace. It seems I’m always asking others to grant it, but am I so quick to pass it on myself?
Perhaps you’ve sometimes fallen into the same trap.
Ever been late on a credit card payment and gotten the dreaded phone call? Without fail we seem to respond with the same universal line: “Grace, please?”
We’re late returning a library book, a rental car, or a casserole dish: “Grace, please?”
Who hasn’t missed a turn, an exit, or rolled through a stop sign and impeded the path of another car, only to fire off an apologetic wave of the hand and a sheepish grin. The grin itself is pleasant and quiet, but the real message screams, “Hey buddy! A little grace, huh? I’m in a hurry, I’m lost, I’m from out-of-town, I’m pregnant or my wife is pregnant.” Take your pick.
Or maybe, like me, you’ve missed a deadline for a project at work, a homework assignment or a new manuscript: What’s the refrain? “Grace, please?”
It’s part of life. It’s who we are. It’s how the plan of happiness was designed. It is that word, grace, that allows us to embrace repentance, change our minds and choices, and taste life’s sweet second chances.
Why then when my children make a mistake, despite the fact that I made the same missteps at their age, am I often too slow to extend grace? Especially since heaven and the neighbors know I’m asking for it myself when on trash day the sun rises and sets with the cans still sitting at the side of the house, full.
Mrs. Wright has heard it before: “I’m sorry dear. I won’t forget again. A little grace, please?” Fortunately for me, my wife isn’t nearly as slow to pass the grace as I am.
Yes, we all want grace. Leniency. A fresh shot. An opportunity to forgive and forget, right? Except in my case it’s more like, “You do the forgiving, I’ll do the forgetting, thank you very much.”
How about you?
I can’t promise that my expensive trip to speak at another chapel had changed my understanding of grace forever and that I’m a better man for it. But I can promise that I’m trying just little harder to pass the grace more quickly and more often. Maybe we all could.
Because we can’t expect everyone to pass it to us if we’re not willing to pass it back, can we?