Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On Giving Grace

This morning Sophie and I were running a little late to pick Emily up from preschool.  I'd like to say it was for a good reason, but the truth, plain and simple, is that I was trying to cram in one too many things before going to pick up my little energizer bunny.  Anyway, we got to the church, circled the parking lot, and found it full.  So I parked on the street, vaguely aware that my spot had a meter, but fairly certain that there was no way I'd get a ticket in the short amount of time I was inside.  I was wrong.

My husband will attest to the fact that I'm a fairly reactionary person.  I'm quick to respond to situations with how I feel, rather than always being fair headed and logical, as he is most of the time.   My first reaction was one of disbelief, followed quickly by irritation.  The time on my ticket was 11:29, and since I was fairly certain I parked after 11:30 it means that this person likely watched me somewhat frantically grab Sophie from the car, dash inside, and probably return too, as I was inside a grand total of seven minutes.  This person (who I've decided never had to parent young children) decided to be punitive, rather than forgiving, and I was hopping mad about it.

I began composing a letter in my head that I would send, along with my $5 payment, telling the city of Sewickley that their employee, while technically correct in giving me a ticket, was just plain mean.  He ( I guess I've also decided it was a man...) showed me no leniency.  He watched me frantically trying to successfully master the preschool pick up; trying to carry one child while holding the hand of another child while all the while juggling a back pack, my purse, and dodging questions about what's for lunch, or what we're going to play with at home.  He decided to ticket me anyway.

But then I calmed down a bit and realized that maybe I was wrong.  Maybe he didn't see me *just* leave my car, maybe he didn't see me return a few minutes later, or maybe he did but he believed that anyone breaking the rules deserves a ticket, and that's his prerogative.  Maybe, even though I was annoyed with him for showing me no grace, I would not be showing grace very well either by calling him out in a letter pointing out all the ways - justified or not - that I had been wronged.  I was reading a book last night called Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist, and read this thought on grace: "I don't really trust that people will show me grace.  I don't show it to myself well, and when I'm doing poorly, I don't show it to anyone else well either." and also that grace is "when you finally stop keeping score and when you realize that God never was, that his game is a different one entirely".  Suddenly I became aware of how petty my reaction to the situation was, and how thankful I am that God showers us with His grace so much better than I ever will be capable of.  I guess that's a good lesson to re-learn, even if it cost me $5.

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