A day after that last post I was in a car accident.
I caused a car accident.
I entered the left turn lane of a busy intersection, noted my green signal, followed the momentum of the car in front of me -- not too closely -- , asked my son about how he'd gotten along in his karate class. And then I screamed right before the crushing sound, the engine smoke billowing through my steering column, my youngest's giggle that turned into a rabbit-like predator call, the pain radiating in my shins. I was actually stunned to discover I shouldn't have turned. The other driver had the right of way and I crossed into it.
The thing is that I knew this. I use this intersection all the time. I've been driving for over 20 years and I've never turned left when it was dangerous to do so. I've never been at fault in an accident. My driving record is clean. How in the world did I momentarily forget this basic traffic rule?
By way of report, all people involved are fine. The vehicles were totaled, but no one was hurt and we all walked away merely rattled.
However, I am haunted hourly by what could have happened, by what my two youngest boys will internalize, by the inconvenience and fright I caused another family.
After sitting with this for nearly a week, I've discovered that I'm mostly bothered by my own incompetence. To my personality profile, incompetence is anathema. I get stressed out by being around it. I don't like mistakes, equipment failure, people who don't solve their own problems, or anything that gets in the way of my independence. This is the unpretty picture of me. Do I hide it well? Sometimes. Why do I hide it? Because it doesn't seem congruent with a life that's convinced of grace.
Sadly, and this is the lesson that I think I'm grasping, I often fall in the trap of even labeling my own children as incompetent. This has been on my mind for a while now and when I can catch myself viewing them in this way (i.e. getting frustrated) I do a better job of backing up and trying again with a bit more understanding. But I've been missing the mark and I've been wondering, just what does that kind of motherly grace actually look like?
Perhaps I was the cause of a car accident because I'd meet a woman who would teach me something I needed to learn. The mother of the teenage driver I hit leaped out of her Landcruiser and came to my vehicle straightaway. She asked if I was okay. She didn't look at me like I was crazy. She didn't accuse me of anything. I actually asked her how the accident happened and as she gently explained my incompetence glared me in the face. I owned it. I apologized. She helped call 911 because I didn't look so good. Later, she hugged me. She let me cry. She said, "It's okay. It's only property. No one is hurt. God was watching out for us today."
Indeed. And I hope that I got his message: Grace looks like a hug from a woman who simply wants to believe you are better than that. Grace offers forgiveness. Grace knows that you can try again and succeed. Grace knows who is in control even when the circumstances seem crazy.
I hope that I can take this and pass it on to my kids as I daily try to encourage and uplift them toward the people they are becoming. They make mistakes, they choose unwisely, they don't control themselves... but I can show grace and know that, in the end, they'll be better because I believe it to be so.