It seems wretched to think that one of the first times I was self-aware enough to consciously remember extending grace was only a couple of years ago when I was 49.
One morning, a couple of summers ago, I took my pickup in to the local dealer. Debi was my service advisor. I told Debi that there were three things that I wanted them to do. First and foremost, I said, was to re-charge the air-conditioning. It was the beginning of the summer and the refrigerant in the a/c must be low, because it wasn't cooling at all. It also needed an oil-change and the transmission fluid needed to be checked because the transmission seemed to be slipping a bit. But, that a/c was top priority because it gets really hot where I live. Debi understood, took my information and told me she would call me back when the truck was ready. She never did.
At the end of the day, I returned to the dealer. I waited in line for some time. When it was my turn, Debi said to me, "Well let's see, we were able to change your oil and we drained and refilled your transmission fluid. The one thing we couldn't get to was your air conditioning." Thinking back on it now, Debi strikes me as someone who had dealt with "the public" for some time. It seems to me now that her voice, posture and delivery were set to receive an attack for not addressing the critical repair issue that I had brought the truck in for. I'm sure that was what she was used to and, frankly, it's what I was used to delivering.
Because I had been in pursuit of being more Christlike, I paused. It gave me a chance to make a choice between anger and understanding. My wife, Gwen, used to tell me that I was making a choice to be angry. I never believed her. My excuse was, "this is just me. It's who I am. I can't change. Do you think I want to be angry?" A counsellor once pointed out that I must be getting something positive out of being angry. It was one of the reasons I stopped going to her soon afterwards. Let's just say I've changed my mind.
I said to Debi, "You know what? That's OK. I'll just bring it back another time." The look on her face was worth the price of swallowing my anger. It was a look of disbelief. A curious "What planet did you come from?" kind of look. She gave me the paperwork and I went to the cashier's window to pay for the oil and transmission fluid change.
I went outside and sat down on a bench to wait for my truck to be brought around. And waited....and waited some more. It was still hot outside. Self-pity wanted to come around. It wasn't going to be any better in that truck. Anger tried to bubble-up. Ungratefulness was crouching like a lion, ready to pounce. As I sat in the heat, the thought that I was justified to claim my "right" to expect better service than this trickled out like the perspiration on my brow. I physically shook my head and metaphysically shook my spirit to dispel them all. I took a deep breath and thanked God that I had a truck.
Debi returned to me, smiling and saying, "Kim, I have good news for you!"
"Yes, when I went 'round to get your truck the mechanic was looking for the paperwork. He told me that he had just finished repairing the air conditioner, so you're all set."
"Wow, that's great. OK, let's see, I'll go in and pay for it then."
"Oh no no. This was our mistake. You've already made a trip to the cashier. It's on us."
I didn't argue. I thanked her and drove off in my cool truck.
It grieves me to think of all the "tests" I've failed throughout my life. To think of God patiently trying to teach me to be forgiving and gracious, like Him. Yes, I do still get tested and yes, many times I fail. But sometimes, I slip up and do something right. I'm praying to God that He gives me the strength to extend more grace and forgiveness as the time is right. And it always is...