It was a Friday morning, and it began like any other. Only better. My mother had offered to take the boys to the park and I was going to treat myself to a couple hours of shopping.
It had been one of those weeks that had left me feeling worn down. A tad desperate. Everything I put my hands to seemed to be failing. I needed a break from it all.
My mother and I switched cars for the morning – she took my Yaris with the two car seats intact and I borrowed my grandmother’s Buick that my parents drove throughout the week.
It was a gorgeous, sunny autumn day. I pulled into the parking lot thinking of what stores I would visit first, hoping to find a few new sweaters for the cooler Fall weather. As I turned into the first empty spot I saw – the mall was surprisingly busy on this weekday – I suddenly froze. I wasn’t sure why, but something had alerted my attention. Was it my imagination or did I just hear a thud?
And then, the horrible thought flashed through my mind. Did I just hit the car in the spot next to me?
I thought certainly, no. There was no way I could have just done something so stupid. Not in my grandmother’s car. Not when I am about to enjoy a morning to myself at the mall.
I slowly reversed the car and glanced up at the black Honda beside me. Across the rear side of the car was a long, ugly white scratch.
My hands began to shake. My stomach went queasy. I felt extremely warm all of a sudden. I was in panic mode. I wanted to run. Hide. Escape. I wanted to get away from this problem as fast as I could.
But I didn’t run. Everything in me wanted to pretend this had never happened. But the guilt from what I had done was already eating me alive. The only way to survive was to confess.
I called my husband to talk through the situation, barely able to hold back the tears that were welling up inside of me. My voice was shaky as I spoke with the security guard I had located inside the mall. I choked back tears while speaking with my father about what had just happened to my grandmother’s car. I received the dreaded phone call from the Honda’s owner a few hours later. He surprised me with his calmness, his understanding, his forgiveness. Everyone surprised me with their acceptance that day.
It took me a while to see this event for what it was – a mistake. I had been so afraid. Not of the money it would cost to repair the damage, though. I was afraid of the people I would disappoint. I was ashamed of messing up. I was afraid of being seen as a failure. This fear made me want to run away.
As I processed these emotions for the next couple of days I began to think about forgiveness in other areas of my life. I realized how unforgiving I was being towards my kids, for making mistakes just as I had done. My accident woke me up to the longing to be more patient, more forgiving, towards those who have wronged me, intentionally or not. I wanted to pour forgiveness onto all of these mistakes, both past and present. Mistakes made by imperfect people, just like me. I had just felt firsthand the beauty of forgiveness. The warmth of acceptance, even in the midst of failure.
I don’t want to hide from my mistakes anymore. I want to accept forgiveness. And I want to forgive.