For me, my husband is the greatest earthly example I have of God's merciful grace. I can truly say that knowing John has helped me to know God more deeply. Tonight I was reminded of just how grace works through my husband's response to yet another of my "oops" moments.
This evening I hit a parked car while pulling into a spot in a parking garage at a local mall. Those of you who have known me for most of my life will not be surprised by this admission. My high school dance teacher's motto was, "if you're going to bust, bust BIG," and I seem to have always taken that to heart. There are many stories I could share about how "Rachel Luck" works, but just suffice it to say that if it can go wrong and I'm involved, well, it does.
So of course I hit a parked car in a parking garage. This is how things go for me. My heart racing and hands shaking, I parked my car and called my husband John. "I just hit a parked car in a parking garage. WHAT DO I DO?!"
Now let me insert here that my panicked query comes from a lifetime of programming. What has been proven to me time and again throughout my life is that when something like this happens someone will yell, scream and holler at me - be it the other driver, a bystander, or an authority figure (in 1st grade it was the 6th grade safety patrol member who yelled at me for accidentally breaking a classmate's nose when I opened a door he was standing behind). My emotional CD Rom kicked into gear and I flipped out, to the point that I was looking around waiting for someone to yell at me. And despite the fact that my husband has never raised his voice to me, I was still expecting a tirade from him. Because that's the thing. We all have our own CD Rom that has been programmed by the situations and reactions we've experienced in our personal lives. Yours may tell you that if you cry you'll get out of the tough situation, or that if you flee/hide it won't be a problem. Mine tells me to duck and cover because an eruption is coming.
And here's where I saw God more clearly through my husband's actions. Because John didn't yell, accuse, or in general imply that only a moron would hit a parked car (which is what I kept thinking to myself).
He simply and very calmly said, "That's why we have insurance."
In my brain I immediately moved from my survival state ("duck and cover") quickly through the emotional state ("am I still loved?") and into my executive state ("what do I do?"). I left my information for the driver of the car and snapped pictures of the damage. Then I sent them to my husband and asked him to call the insurance company. He very easily could have fussed at me for even suggesting it since he was at work and I was at the mall, but he knew I was rattled and said he'd take care of it.
This isn't the first time this has happened. About this time 4 years ago I had the unfortunate circumstance of having to explain to my husband that as of June 30th I would be unemployed. After 9 years of teaching dance and drama at a local year-round elementary school I had been displaced due to budget cuts and, because I'd just started working on my Masters of Library Science, spent years 10 and 11 of my teaching career as a school librarian. I enjoyed the work, but was required to complete a certain number of hours in my masters program each year to keep my provisional license.
That year I was working as a 12-month employee at a brand new school (opening a school, and in particular a school library, was an eye-opening experience), I had just gotten married, and I was doing graduate work. I couldn't juggle all of the balls, and, unfortunately, the graduate work was the ball that I dropped. Which, I was told on a Monday, meant that I had "failed to fulfill my contractual obligation" and was "no longer employable in the State of NC." I was crushed. I've always felt that teaching was my calling, and I couldn't believe that it was no longer an option. I called John and delivered the bad news. Then I drove home, crying the whole way.
When I walked in the door I was prepared for the bomb to drop - yes, I was ready to duck and cover. But my sweet husband engulfed me in a hug and whispered, "so you'll get a new job." John was never upset with me, never claimed to be disappointed. In fact, he stood behind me and squeezed my shoulders that night as I applied to positions at area book stores and dance supply stores. And he celebrated with me when, that Friday, HR called to tell me they were working on my placement. No, I wasn't fired. Instead, they'd find me a teaching position in the field of my first love - dance.
I know that grace looks different to different people. But to me, grace will always be epitomized by my sweet husband calmly comforting me when others would explode into an angry tirade. Do I deserve the tirade? Probably, but he knows more than anything that I need the compassion. And he gives it freely.