On our way back from the amazing bookstore, we pulled into an Olive Garden for dinner. Just as we sat down, two girls appeared at our table. They looked frantic.
"A guy just hit your car!" exclaimed the first girl.
"We saw the whole thing," said the second girl. "He didn't leave a note or anything. So we took down his license number."
Turns out, they had seen us walk into the restaurant. Moments later, our car got hit. My husband's car.
"Did the guy drive away?" my husband asked.
"No, he walked into Popeye's Chicken."
My husband is a total sweetie but he grew up in Queens, New York. If you know what's good for you, don't mess with him. Don't mess with his family. And do not mess with his car.
He stormed across the parking lot into Popeye's Chicken. Standing in the middle of the place, he asked who was driving the white Cadillac.
So he asked again, this time with every ounce of growling paisan. "Who . . . owns . . . the . . . Caddy?"
Realizing the man with NYC-accent was serious, a guy in baggy jeans and braids stood up. "That's my car."
"You just hit my car," my husband said.
"No, I didn't."
"We're takin' a walk," my husband growled.
Outside in the parking lot, my husband pointed out the damage: White scar on husband's black bumper; black scar on Caddy's white bumper. Both fresh as daisies. And two sweet girls who saw the whole thing and now identified the guy as the driver.
"Well," the guy said, "maybe I did hit your car, but I don't remember doing it."
My husband looked at him. "What're you -- a comedian?"
The guy kept going. The lies got more extravagant. Finally all my husband wanted was proof of insurance. Yes, the guy said, he did have insurance -- he just wasn't sure of the company name. He wrote something down on a piece of paper. My husband took his driver's license number and demanded he sign and date a statement that his Caddy did indeed hit our car -- even if he couldn't remember the accident five minutes after it happened.
We drove away. A long silence enveloped the ride home.
Finally, my husband said, "What gets me is the lying. He lied from start to finish."
Sometimes you meet really unlikeable people and the last thing you want to do is pray for them. They wronged you; why ask God to help them? But the weird fact is, life's better parts are counter-intuitive. This goes for Christianity.
So while my husband fumed about the damage, my kids and I secretly started praying for this guy. Don't get the idea we're holy and our head of household isn't. It was easy for us: It wasn't our favorite car. We decided to pray specifically. We wanted this guy to stop lying and turn his life around, and we asked that Daddy would get to the point of being okay with the damage, eventually.
The next day, Sunday, we prayed the same thing but early Monday morning it wasn't even a thought in my head. One kid had projectile vomiting, the other was grouchy, and due to a busy weekend the house looked like an IED went off. When the phone rang, it wasn't even breakfast time. I almost didn't pick up.
But it was the guy who hit our car.
"I didn't give your husband the true insurance information," he said, as my son hurled into the waste bucket. "I feel bad about it. I wanted to make it right."
He went on from there, his voice contrite and apologetic. Then he spoke to my husband.
"Thank you," my husband said. "I really appreciate your apology. I've decided to let the whole thing go."
There was a long pause. "No," the guy insisted. "I want to give you the insurance stuff."
"Thank you, but I thought about it and prayed about it a long time. I want to let it go."
The guy was stunned. He kept asking, "Are you sure? Are you sure?"
As I get older, I'm more and more certain that an overwhelming amount of life goes on behind the scenes, with the invisible parts being the most crucial. People will insist prayer had nothing to do with this tectonic shift. They'll say it was Tough Guy Hubby. Threat of a lawsuit. Whatever. I know because once upon a time I was one of those people.
But not only did prayer help the principal players, it showed me how there's no room for judging here. Each of us does stupid and mean things. We think nobody's watching, and skulk away into some hideout. Then God rolls in at some inopportune moment and announces in a loud voice, "You hurt somebody."
Do we fess up?
No way. We said, "I did? I don't remember."
God says, "What're you -- a comedian?"
The good news is God isn't human. He doesn't need to stew before forgiving a repentant heart. He's right there, waiting, forever. And every single thing can be forgiven -- not just that one moronic episode, but every last bit of your life. Paid in full. No insurance claims, no visits to the body shop. Done. Amen.
(P.S. I should clarify something, given the parallels above. I do not think my husband is God.
My husband thinks he's God, but that's a story for another time.)