It’s a perfectly normal rainy fall Thursday. Kids plugging away at school work. Mom realizing we’re nearly out of coffee which is a pretty big crisis. At least a dozen other staples are at a near gone level as well. My efforts to stretch out Costco trips has probably been taken a bit too far. I head for the door and promise a treat for the ones who have to stay home. I bring one son with me since he’s my best muscle help, loves loading and unloading and scouting for our list items. I run back in and ask a daughter to come too, she declines and says she wants to do math instead. When I get outside, the car is one resounding sob. A precious little book that had been carefully tucked away, one with stamped pages collected from geocaching with Dad, it had been found. By an unruly four year old brother. And every page scribbled and drawn on. Deemed a total loss. Pages were ripped out in frustration and the little books pages were strewn everywhere. “It was so SPECIAL!!” he’s weeping and I tell him I’m sorry and I know we can replace it or fix it or make it better. The brother says sorry but its a four-year-old sorry and it doesn’t heal or help. At all.
We depart despite the trauma and get out to the main road. I’ve answered a call from my mother and am catching up a bit with her when I hear a loud crash in my van. I look back. The back window is missing. I’m driving down a super steep hill. I pull safely to the side. I get out and look for clues. I’m completely baffled. And more than a little scared. The not knowing what is happening. It’s an awful feeling. I look inside the hole where my window used to be. There is a harmless looking grocery sack. Nothing else. I look closer without cutting myself. There is a rock much bigger than my fist in the bag. And other various beach treasures that had been collected somewhere and left in the van. A rock big enough to shatter my window into hundreds of little pieces.
He meets my gaze. He stammers and mumbles about not knowing what was in the bag. In his feeling-deeply moment, he probably didn’t, its true. He was overwhelmed with feeling and he tossed the bag back without a second thought. I look long at him. I don’t ask why. He’s just now calculating what he has done. And a new tide of emotion rushes in. Fear. Unchecked remorse. An unbearable sense of “why in the world did I do this?”. I watch him and I silently get my keys and get back in the van. I dial our treasured car repair man, I’m more than lip quivering at this point, I tell him what happened and ask him to help me. He gives me a number of a man who does just this and I call him before we even reach the house. Of course he can fix it he tell me, and my tears cover my phone. I find Audrey and hold her so tight it hurts. The bag of rocks flew over her seat. If she’d come when I invited her to, she would have been directly in its haphazard path. The “what if…” catches in my throat and I can’t breathe or speak or cry or move.
The road is covered with glass. I’m not the sort who can just leave it there. So I pick up a dustpan and broom and drive back to the street where it broke. He watches for cars, blazing over the hill at 40 mph and alerts me to their coming while I kneel on the asphalt and sweep one shard after another into a pan. He holds the bag as I dump load after load in. He is shaking. The rain begins. I give him my sweater and crouch on the road in a tee shirt quickly soaking. I consciously breathe in and out and I hear the truth ringing in my head, in my heart.
Jesus meets me right here. On the road. In damp jeans with my tattered heart. Picking up the mess of someone else’s wrong choice. It’s more than a whisper, it’s the clearest thing ever. This. This is what I do for you all the time. I pick up the pieces. I enter in to your mess, even if it is risky. And I love you there. I offer you forgiveness. Grace. And I never stop. You can’t outrun my unrelenting love for you. And you get to extend it. Right now. In this moment. With your own son.
He keeps saying softly, “I’m so sorry mom”. I finish sweeping and turn to him. I wrap him up in the rain. I hold him for a long time on the sidewalk. I speak life and forgiveness and love. In a season when I feel like I’m messing up a fair bit, every day, can’t get anything “just right”…I get the chance to do this. This one thing right. To respond the way God responds to my (daily) mess. To practice what it looks like to say:
Yep. You did quite a thing here. Epic poor choice. But here I am. My love for you won’t stop, won’t quit. I choose to love you in this moment. You are forgiven.
I can hardly get my body into the house when we return. My legs won’t stop shaking. My insides quiver. The kids sit quiet and make lunch for each other. I bring them to the computer, show them this video. We talk forgiveness. How God offers it. Freely. Unceasingly. In the purest, most genuine way. How this is what makes the way of Jesus a different path. A radical one. And I pray silent for another chance to show them. To forgive fully and to love well.