"Well, honey, I've got bad news and I've got good news."
Not exactly the words a guy likes to hear when his wife picks him up at the airport, especially after three blessed and bright late-winter days at a Lutheran Men in Mission "visioning" retreat on the rolling rural outskirts of Omaha. Along with 15 other seekers from around the country, I headed home savoring the high of the weekend's spirit-spurred avalanche of Good Dude News — of seeking, speaking, listening, praying, laughing, eating, drinking, hugging, hoping, brainstorming, reflecting and projecting, all in service of ... well, whatever God has in store for us (more will be revealed to the world in due time, trust me). Even after the obligatory cramped and noisy plane flights, I was feelin' downright serene. Hopeful. Whole.
Then came my bride's greeting.
"The bad news is that a neighbor hit my car while it was parked in front of our house," she said.
Wait. What? What neighbor? How bad? Totaled?
"Yeah, he came by earlier to tell me what happened, very distraught, nearly in tears. Said he didn't want it to go through his insurance, that he'd pay for the whole thing, he has the name of a good body shop in town. He was truly upset and apologetic. I felt for him."
I could have succumbed to "why us?" angst and employed a standard pissed-off-guy response, but I kept my head. My serenity remained intact. A man I hadn't yet met but who lived just one street over came around a corner, got distracted and plowed into the left-front of our 2002 Explorer, then came back later to fess up and make it right.
Mistake. Guilt. Confession. Forgiveness. An age-old faith circle completed around a random splintering of plastic and twisting of iron, with one man at its center. We've all been there. We'll be there again. Mercy won the day.
This was the truly good news, though my wife's version was solid, too. She'd taken it upon herself to refinish some of our furniture over the weekend, another link in a lengthening chain of start-and-stop home improvements which, truth be told, comprise a coping mechanism as we face empty-nesthood in the next few years. It was a loving "welcome home" to me. That's how I take it anyway, and I'm thankful for it.
But a man, any man, showing genuine vulnerability as he made his transgression known, however trivial? That's something to celebrate. Our trusty old vehicle took the physical blows, but this guy got knocked for a loop, too. He shared in the injury and initiated the healing without a second thought. He could have driven off and escaped blame, but he did the "right thing," as almost anyone in the same position would.
I have no idea whether he's a religious guy. Doesn't matter. But perhaps without knowing it — and who really does, until after the fact? — he stoked my already burnin' bonfire of faith, fed by the spirit and following me home, all the way from Omaha.