I'm going to confess. I'm going to confess in a way that could leave me open to serious, flaming criticism and definitely judgment. I'm going to confess that I almost broke the law. But I'm going to confess how grace appeared in abundance, and how feeling like the eyes of my congregation could be upon me during a difficult moment was a blessing which held me accountable.
I went to visit a parishioner at our local hospital today. The parking spots there are notoriously tight. Often you will see a car taking up two spots. I often wonder if it's out of selfishness or if the poor person honestly couldn't fit their car into a single spot. The spots leave that kind of room for ambiguity.
Anyway, you probably know what is coming. I was pulling into a spot, listening to a Tell Me More podcast, not really thinking about spacial relations, and Boom! I knocked right into the car next to me. Immediately I felt that cold/burny/hot feeling rush through my body, and I said out loud, "Oh my God!" which I think immediately was both curse and prayer.
I jumped out of the car to see what damage had been done. There was barely a mark on the other person's car, which I quickly noticed was a beat-up VW Jetta. Then I looked at the front of my van and there was quite a tell-tale patch of scratchy smeared paint, the kind that says, "You hit something/someone, didn't you?"
I got back into my car and got out my business cards, ready to write a note and ask the person to call me. And then the thoughts came (this is the confessional part, REALLY confessional):
1. What if the person uses this incident to try to get me to pay for all of the work the car needs? (I mean, seriously, it was missing parts, it was kind of a mess.)
2. Did anybody see me do it? Meaning, could I drive away and park at another spot and pretend the whole thing never happened, or is there someone writing down my license plate number as we speak, ready to report me for a hit-and-run? (Definitely this is the most shameful confession.)
3. That last thought was quickly followed by thoughts about the scriptures for this upcoming first Sunday in Lent: Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. I was sure that if I drove away, I would be falling prey to some very bad temptation. How could I stand up and preach about this, knowing what I had done?
4. Looking around more for anyone who may have seen me. Was anyone standing right behind my van, watching to see what I would do, cell phone camera at the ready? (Yes, I thought this many, many times. I am fairly sure I am due some sort of penance for all the times I thought this.)
5. Who's that guy? Oh my gosh, the guy who drives that car is coming here!
And he was. I was never more grateful to see someone who could cost me a lot of money.
First I noticed that he had to go to the passenger side to even open the car (seriously, I'm telling you, it was a beater.) And then I jumped out:
"Sir! Sir! I am so glad to see you. I have to tell you, when I was pulling into my spot, I hit your car." I pointed out where the damage had been done on his car.
He looked at my car and gasped, "Oh no, look at YOUR car!" At first I thought he was mocking me, but he was really serious, upset on my behalf that the damage done to the bumper of my van was more noticeable that what had happened to his car.
He shook his head, "You think I care about a little bump to this beater? Look at it! Don't worry about it."
"Are you sure?" I gasped. I kind of babbled for a moment about getting back in my car and sitting there thinking about what I should do and being about ready to put my business card in his windshield wiper (which I was seriously thinking about, along with all the other naughty thoughts about how to get out of any liability for this situation.)
"I'm sure, don't worry about it," he said, as he was getting in the car.
"Thank you so much!" I gushed, and made Namaste hands at him, not sure what else to do and pretty certain that he didn't want me to hug him.
He drove away, I went back in my car to lock up, and I went in and visited my parishioner, grateful for the gift of this generous angel--not someone who would try to exploit what had happened to get his beater restored to glory, but someone who probably didn't care a lick about the car; it was just to get him from point A to point B. And someone who gave me both the opportunity to do the right thing, and who gave me a whole lot of grace. Thanks be to God.