Sunday, November 27, 2016

God's Grace In a "Chance" Encounter

I didn’t know her name but we struck up a conversation in the women’s locker room at my local YMCA.  Our exercise time overlapped that day, although I often see her in the capacity of an employee; she is part of the team that keeps the Y clean and appealing.

As we talked, I asked her name because, you see, months earlier Peggy had offered me a moment of undeserved grace.  At that earlier time we had parted company without the exchange of names and this time I wanted to know how to greet this lovely woman.

My “chance encounter” with Peggy had occurred several months ago in the Y parking lot.  I headed to my car after my regular ½ mile swim, noting that it was very windy.  I remember cautioning myself to hang on to my car door.  As I opened the door, the wind gusted, grabbed the door from me and whacked into the car right next to me.  It hit the mirror post and I cringed.  I hoped that nothing had happened but, on looking closer…there it was.  A very noticeable scratch. DARN!

Major dilemma time.  I tried hard to convince myself that it was just a typical parking lot incident; after all, didn’t we take those chances whenever we parked in a parking lot?  You can see where my thinking was going.  Not in a good direction.

Well, my conscience played on me and the inner dialogue went into full gear.  I pictured the owner of the car (it was a nice car, by the way…clean and free of dents and scratches) getting an estimate for damages and presenting me with a hefty bill.  No one ever wants to contact their insurance agency because of the threat of rates increasing.  That, plus more, played through my thought process.

I knew deep in my heart that I had to ‘fess up.  As I was agonizing over all of this, a friend walked out to her car. We stopped and chatted about my situation.  Neither of us knew who owned the car but that didn’t have to stop me from doing the right thing by leaving a note on the windshield.

Just then, “Peggy” walked out.  She walked in the direction of the car but didn’t head toward the driver side.  She didn’t appear to be the car’s owner.  About the time I did a silent “whew”…thinking I would not have to make that confession face-to-face, Peggy went to the passenger side of her now newly “scratched” car and I knew my moment of truth had arrived.  My friend wished me luck and drove away.

I confessed to Peggy that I had damaged her car and pointed to the scratch. She was very calm, examined the “offense” and said, “ok”.  OK!!!!!???  I told her I would be happy to pay for the damage and she just shrugged her shoulders and said, “no problem, those things happen in parking lots.”  (I wanted to give her a huge hug but decided that may be a bit of overkill!)

Wow!  Who does that these days?!  I believe I had just experienced a touch of God’s grace wrapped in human form.  I left Peggy with a grateful heart and a renewed determination to treat others with the same grace I had just received.

I have heard a lovely definition attached to the letters of the word “grace”:
God’s Redemption At Christ’s Expense.  Isn’t that what the gospel message is all about?  My salvation was very costly, but it wasn’t my cost.  Because of what Jesus did on the cross, I received a free gift.  No strings attached!  I just had to genuinely receive that gift.  And that free gift is available to all who call upon the name of the Lord.

Thanksgiving 2016 is now in the review mirror (hah!  A little play on words here) and my encounter with Peggy in the locker room reminded me again of how grateful I am for grace.  The memory of her generous gift of grace caused me to be thankful, once again.

As we head into Christmas, I plan to celebrate the awesome grace offered through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Ephesians 2:8 & 9, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  There are so many wonderful opportunities to serve and love on others.  Come join your heart with mine as we journey to the manger.