Written by Shauna Becker, Pastoral Care Intern

Years ago, a couple of friends decided going to the YMCA would be an opportunity for renewal. I saw this as just one more way to deplete my dwindling energy. Having a full size conversion van, I instead volunteered to take all the kids to a restaurant play land. It’s sad that I thought this would be better than exercising, but I did.

So, with my three boys, who were 6 months, 3 years and 5 years old, I set out to pick up the other kids. First we picked up a 6-month-old boy, his 6-year-old sister, and their car seats.  Our next stop required more car seats for the twin boys age 2, and booster seats for their sisters age 5 and 7. The van was now full of kicking and giggling children. After an uneventful stop at the post office, a nearly empty gas tank sent us to the nearest station.

The Oklahoma summer makes filling up a slow, sweaty process. It’s especially so for nine kids in a van in which only the front windows roll down. Gassing complete, we headed for the colorful climbing tunnel and ease of fast food. As I pulled out of the gas station, I began to do the McMath of ordering for this wiggly crew. How many chicken nuggets does it take to feed nine hungry kids under 8 and how will I get the drinks, fries, and kids to the table while lugging two babies in carriers? More importantly, how can I convince these little munchkins that the certainty of a dipping sauce disaster makes dry nuggets a necessity at our table?

It was during this complicated equation that I noticed a police officer coming toward me. I immediately panicked and checked my speed, relieved it was only my brain racing at 75 mph in a 35 mph zone. Of course, I still felt the need to check my side mirror to ensure the officer wasn’t in hot pursuit. I was evidently free to go, but in checking my mirror I noticed something far more disturbing. My van had grown a tail and it was wagging like the happiest dog on earth.

I knew I needed to return to the gas station as quickly and safely as possible before this new appendage had drawn too much attention. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the station the parking lot was full. I exited the van and went to the newly acquired tail and removed what had once been a gas pump nozzle and hose from my tank.  I began the walk of shame into the jam-packed convenience store and as I approached the silvery reflective windows, I could hear laughter starting to roll through the parking lot.

As I opened the heavy glass door, more laughter spilled onto the sidewalk and one gentleman with a pinched brow and tight lips asked abhorrently, “Did you drive off with that in your car?” I wanted to throw the gas pump over the counter and run away with my tail tucked between my legs, but I simply nodded and smiled timidly. He never did see the humor everyone else enjoyed; he just shook his head in disgust and walked away. I returned the nozzle to the clerk and apologized profusely as she accepted my humble offering. I made it to the play place without any more excitement and enjoyed some salty French fries and sweet ice cream. I appreciated these treats only half as much as the humor of my day.

There are times I don’t have the perspective I had that day. It’s so easy to slip into hatefulness like that poor man, with the pinched brow. Sometimes we’re too tired or just too mad at ourselves to find the humor in life. But if we can remember we’re always loved by God, even when we drive off with the gas nozzle in our tank, we are far more likely to find humor and peace in embarrassing circumstances. God’s love for us is far bigger than any of our mistakes or shame.

"(The Prodigal son) set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him." Luke 15:20

Reflection question: Can you accept God’s forgiveness and see joy or humor in your mistakes?

Prayer: Father we thank you for offering us hugs and kisses even when we feel unlovable. Amen

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