Years ago my husband and I bought a brand new Honda Civic. It was a light sky blue, and was one of the first energy efficient models on the road. It was decided that I would drive it, and be the family chauffeur, since we could only afford one car at the time. From day one, we loved that little car. Unfortunately, that little car was an accident magnet. However, our Lord in His infinite wisdom had a plan and used that car to teach us lessons of forgiveness.
Our first opportunity to learn a lesson of forgiveness came when we’d barely had the car a month. I received a call at my desk to come to the office manager’s office. He ushered me into his office and closed the door. While my car was safely parked in the company parking lot, it had been hit with a football. The hood had a huge cavern in its middle from the impact. Our factor workers had been using their lunch break for an impromptu game of tag football. I thought they needed a better receiver; one who could actually catch the ball! The company promised to pay for the damages, and the young man who had actually thrown the ball was terribly apologetic. In fact, they were all watching me to determine my reaction because they knew how they’d feel if their spanking brand new car was ruined. My heart melted. How could I not forgive? Course it did take a little while for the company to make good on their promise to fix the car. Turned out Japanese models at that time didn’t have hoods that could easily be popped back into place. We had to buy a new hood and have it installed and painted to match the car. It was an expensive repair. Knowing we didn’t have to pay for it was somewhat mollifying, but I always felt the body people never got the paint job exactly right.
Well, the next incident was several months later. Parked in front of our house, I looked outside to see the front fence wrapped around my car. Can you imagine? We went racing outside and determined there was no real damage, just a couple of minor scratches. Turns out our neighbor who enjoyed his beer a little too much had backed into our fence. His bumper caught on the chain link, and literally separated it from the pole. I guess he kept going, never really understanding that he was attached to our fence. It probably boomeranged into my car. We never said anything, but I think he heard me yelling about it because he came to apologize rather sheepishly later. How could we not forgive him? I personally couldn’t believe this had happened, but what are you going to do? The more things happened to my precious little car the more protective I became of it. Oh yes, this was MY car since I had taken full ownership by virtue of being the primary driver.
Things were quiet for awhile. We had some near misses on the highway, but I figured out fate was directly related to how hard I prayed while I was on the road. I was convinced that the car was invisible, and used my horn at will. I only wished it were louder and more obnoxious sounding.
I was heading home to lunch from work at our Church where I served as one of several secretaries there. As usual, I was careful to follow the speed limits and use my turn signals etc. I was a cautious driver. I had to be in that car! Going slowly down the street next to the Church, I was looking at a car backing very fast out of the nearby bank’s service entrance. He never even slowed down as he whipped that little bit around the curve and straight back into my car. I realized too late that he couldn’t hear my horn over his radio and he obviously wasn’t looking in his rear view mirror. I enjoyed my hard earned ability to drive a stick shift, but I couldn’t shift it fast enough to avoid the collision. I hated to get out to see what kind of damage had been incurred. I felt we were pretty lucky that our insurance company hadn’t cancelled our insurance after all I’d been through. I was not a happy camper and really wanted to deck this idiot. However he was young and obviously thoughtless. I was shaking, but thankfully one of our maintenance men had witnessed the accident and had already called the police. I was too shaken and upset to really talk intelligently and I was getting madder by the minute as this kid tried to weasel on me. Then the nice police officer asked me how fast I was going. Well I thought he meant as I was driving along; that is until this kid said something smart, and I commented that I had been stopped, trying to back up and honking my horn all at the same time. He shut up, clearly caught. He got a ticket and I got his name and address. You’d think the story would be over, but it wasn’t. A couple of days later, our insurance company called to inform me that the young man had no insurance. His car was a rental and he’d lied. The rental car company didn’t care that the insurance card he gave them was no longer in effect. They felt they had no responsibility. I could never figure that out since it was their car. Thank goodness for them, their car had no damage. Mine did, to the tune of $500, a big sum for us. Well, I knew I wasn’t going to see that kid again, so I did the next best thing. I called him on the phone to berate him. Well, he practically cried, and I felt sorry for him. I’m sure it was a ploy, but God used it to soften my heart. After I calmed down, I told him I would forgive him the debt. Instead I wanted him to take that $500 he owed me and buy some insurance. He promised he would, incredulous that I wasn’t going after him. Of course I had to explain that I was a Christian and since God forgave me, I was required to forgive him. Boy was it his lucky day! Later in the week, our neighbor, a body man for the Cadillac corporation, asked us what we were going to do. We told him, nothing; get the headlight fixed and let it go. I explained the predicament we were in and that the young man had no money and no insurance. The next day our neighbor came over with an offer we couldn’t refuse. He agreed to fix my little car for the cost of materials only in support of our decision to forgive the debt the young man owed us. He was a Christian too.
Well, that’s the saga of our little car. I was thankful that we didn’t have any more accidents after that. God had mercy upon us and our little car, allowing us to keep it for almost 15 years. In fact, our good neighbor borrowed it for a week when his old clunker was in the shop. He couldn’t get over the fact that he never had to gas it up. Boy, do I wish I had that car today!
I am thankful for the lessons of forgiveness we learned. How wonderful it was to have opportunities to extend mercy and grace to those who had wronged me. I had to be careful though; I didn’t want to ruin the whole thing with a prideful, smug heart.
Originally published in a 2008 Words of Encouragement issue.