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What I Saw Was the Grace of God

I’ve been considering whether to post a story about Peter which includes some unflattering details about Doug and me. It’s such a meaningful story, though, that I can’t seem to get it out of my mind. It happened over three years ago when Peter was almost 16. Caleb had been nominated to receive an award at college, and parents were invited to drive up and participate in a luncheon honoring the nominees. It was a nine hour trip up from Texas to Tennessee, with a nine hour return trip home the following day.

Peter and Doug and I made the trip– an easy one going up, with discussion and music and fellowship. Having his mom and dad all to himself was an unusual occurrence for Peter, whose three highly motivated and active older siblings often seemed to absorb all the parental attention. We laughed and joked and enjoyed our time with Peter. Once we were there, Caleb was grateful for his family’s presence at the recognition luncheon.

The return trip home, however, turned out differently. Doug and I began to hear our Fort Worth duties calling our names, and the nine hour drive home seemed eternal. Fatigue set in; we had been quite busy the week before we left and just wanted to get home. At least I did. You see, even when fresh and happy, Doug and I have two very different philosophies when it comes to traveling. My aim is to arrive at the destination, home, as quickly as possible so we can get some real rest. This time my desire for my own pillow was overwhelming. Doug’s way of dealing with fatigue is not to push or rush, but to enjoy the task at hand. And, of course, being a normal married couple, we tend to caricature each other’s ways. It seemed to me that he was stopping every hour (to get coffee, to take care of the side effects of the coffee, to get water, to get food). Indignant, I felt sure that food must be his god. When my turn at the wheel came, Doug found me a slave driver unwilling to slow down for the sake of anyone’s comfort.

So at some point, (I recall it was while I was driving), Doug and I broke a time-honored rule in our home — the one about fighting in private and maintaining a united front before the children. We fought in front of Peter. Doug insisted that I pull over at the next exit, whatever it was, since I had passed up several beforehand in an effort to get more distance between us and Tennessee. So I did what he asked, and the exit happened to be at a bit of an armpit town in the middle of nowhere. The gas station was dirty, and the people in front of us wouldn’t leave the pump even though they had finished getting gasoline ten minutes earlier. At the Taco Bell we stopped at, the woman trainee didn’t know how to use the cash register and was apologetically batting away flies while two teenage boys (the cooks?!) wrapped tortillas in the back amidst great displays of customer disregard. You can imagine what all of this did to our already frayed nerves. We now had something to aim our anger at other than each other! Peter watched quietly in the background as we slid down hill.

At some point, something happened to Doug. His strong sense of mercy for those less fortunate than himself called his attention to the harried cashier. He perceptibly softened, reassured her, paid for our burritos and we all returned to the car. Once there, nerves still somewhat tense, he led us in prayer over our evening meal, “Lord, thank you for this food . . .” Now if you had seen the food being prepared, I am sure the same thing would have happened to you: all three of us began to laugh. We laughed and the tension melted away. We laughed until the tears ran. We laughed at the silly melodramas of life. And when we could catch our breaths, no one was angry anymore.

Next time we stopped for gas, I was still appalled that Doug and I had tarnished our example to our youngest. I turned to Peter and said, “Peter, I am sorry you had to see your parents in a conflict like that.” Peter turned his ready smile to me, his shining eyes gracious and kind, and his voice very deliberate, “Mom, what I saw was the grace of God.”

I have thought of this many times as we go through many therapists who have to figure out their approach for a patient who cannot speak, and as we try to assess daily what Peter’s capabilities are while he is coming to new cognitive levels, and as he has so many people who are eager to be in on helping him. Some days I can imagine that we are frustrating him by too many demands. And then other days, I am just as sure we must be boring him to tears, not stimulating him enough. When he looks back on this time, full of our ignorance and inadequacies revolving around his care, I am trusting that he will be able to say, “Mom, what I saw . . . was the grace of God.”

Lord, preserve that spirit in him.

“I thank you, Father, because you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.” Matthew 11:25


Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Cherry Neill
    September 7, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    All God’s children, full of our ignorance and inadequacy, drown daily in the ocean of His grace.

    “Do you not know? Have you not heard? El Olam – the Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power….” (Isaiah 40).

    Grace. Everything is grace.

    Lovingly, Cherry Neill

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