Karen was taking Karis to church twelve years ago. She backed out carefully, but did not see Gabriel’s car parked behind the other van. The small Nissan was no match for the Suburban that we had named “Big Red,” and the front right bumper was messed up pretty bad. Karen used her cell phone to call inside. She was crying. I came out, surveyed the damage, and told Karen to head for church. “What about Gabriel’s car?” she asked. “We’ll be home before he sees it. I will explain it to him,” I assured her.
Wrong. Erikka saw the damage and asked Gabriel what happened. When he looked, he was angry and kicked the garage in disgust. He prided himself in keeping the car clean and looking good. Maybe he liked it a little too much. I walked into the study to find Gabriel sitting silently. “Sorry, Gabriel,” I said. “Get an estimate and I will pay for it.” Mom then found Gabriel as he was on the way out and added her apology, which he accepted quietly.
About a minute later, after Gabriel had left, he called and said to Mom, “It’s okay; it’s only a car.” Then a minute after that he called me and said, “Would you pray for me? I don’t know what’s happening?” He was sobbing. He had to pull over and stop the car because he couldn’t see to drive. I responded, “I know what’s happening. You just passed your test, and God’s presence filled your car.” He answered, “Just last night at the meeting Kyle said that the devil would go after us at our weakest point. My weakest point has been my relationship with Mom.” “And you won the fight,” I said. “Way to go.”
Then Gabriel added, “Thanks for not getting mad at me when I messed up your car.” He was leaving church about five years before on a wintry Minnesota day with icy conditions. He tried to turn in the parking lot to miss the oncoming car, but the old wagon wouldn’t cooperate. Totaled our car and thoroughly aggravated the passenger in the other car–a lady pulling up for a wedding.
I reminded Gabriel that when I was sixteen I borrowed another wagon, a 1960 Chevrolet. When dropping friends off, I pulled into their driveway and scraped one whole side on a metal picket fence. My friend Johnny jumped out and said, “Doesn’t look good, Paul.” I responded, “Thanks, Johnny.” When I walked into the kitchen and handed my father the keys, I said, “I messed up the side of the car.” My dad’s response was, “It’s bound to happen sooner or later.” He didn’t even go outside to check it out. His response made me feel more important to him than metal.
He gave me forgiveness. I was able to pass on forgiveness to Gabriel, and Gabriel gave it to his mother. It started with a kind and understanding father, whose godly response bore fruit forty-four years later in his grandson. In fact, it started long before that, with a kind Father who loves to forgive, who grants forgiveness with ease. Two lessons: granting forgiveness releases power and presence. One of the ways God expresses His holiness is in His forgiveness. Forgiveness is a great gift to give to someone who has hurt you!