March 5, 2021

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

This Lent, give grace—and receive it—when necessary

Patti LambRecently, we encountered a milestone at the Lamb household. After multiple increments of online training, six hours of driving with a certified instructor, 50 hours of deliberately recorded practice driving (Thanks, Dad/David) and passing a “road-ready” test, our son got his driver’s license. We celebrated with Chick-fil-A. (“This calls for Chick-fil-A,” has become one of my go-to celebratory statements.)

But the months leading up to receiving his license weren’t all rosy for Henry. When he received his permit, I bought three giant magnets to affix to each side of the car. They were reflective, fluorescent yellow with a cautionary message in bold red and black: “PLEASE BE PATIENT. STUDENT DRIVER.” I wanted other drivers out there to understand that Henry is learning, and to be extra careful and allow him grace on the road.

What Henry doesn’t know until he reads this column is that the magnets I originally had in my cart said, “CAUTION: STUDENT DRIVER … AND SCREAMING PARENT.”

After Henry became a bit more comfortable with driving, he pleaded with me to remove the signs from the car when he was in the driver’s seat. I explained that my motive was to protect him by using signage to signal to others that he’s a newbie, so they would be more understanding if he made a mistake or drove at exactly the speed limit. He conveyed his embarrassment and asked me to dial down the attention factor.

He made a strong case, and I acquiesced to his request. I allowed him to finish his practice driving without the magnets. I ran across them in the garage the other day when I was looking for a snow shovel. I’m saving the cautionary magnets for the time when Margaret receives her driving permit. (Shocking.)

When I looked at the car magnets that afternoon in the garage, a thought flashed in my mind. What if we looked at others with a spirit of transparency, and we could read the “signs” they carry?

What would those look like?

“I’m mourning and it feels like this sense of grief will break me.”

“I can’t believe what’s happening in my life right now. I feel like an exposed nerve—completely raw.”

“I didn’t get the job/make the team/get selected for the scholarship.”

The acknowledgment that we all carry crosses and wear invisible signs led me to consider a new Lenten resolution this year.

Simply stated: Give grace—and receive it, when necessary.

Later that week, a peculiar thing happened. I had an agreement with two friends about how we would enroll our children in an extracurricular activity and share the associated, time-consuming and expensive responsibilities. Uncharacteristically, one friend decided to partner with a different group of moms, and never responded to our outreach about our agreed-upon division of labor and carpooling.

Baffled, my friend and I decided to share the responsibility between the two of us, agreeing that we’d give grace to the friend who behaved out of character. This was much easier to bear when each of us admitted that we both need grace ourselves.

A quote, attributed to author Lysa TerKeurst, comes to mind: “It’s easier to give grace when I remember how much I need grace.”

We all need that undeserved favor at times. God grants it to us and we, in turn, are called to extend it to others.

Lent is an especially meaningful time to practice this approach. Consider what signs and crosses others carry—the baggage that’s invisible to our eyes.

Give grace. Receive grace. Repeat.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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