In what seems like a previous lifetime, Van Sims and I were replacing the roof on a small house in northern Tennessee. In our early twenties, he and I had graduated together back before Graves County, Kentucky, had seen the wisdom of having one high school instead of eight or nine. Our graduating class had fewer than thirty students in it. None of those others joined us for the current cooperative venture under a July sun.
In the midst of the sweat and sting, dirt and debris, we stood on the ceiling joists, prying tin off of the low sloping rafters. The “uumphh” of breath suddenly forced from the body caused me to look over at Van. “You OK?” I asked, seeing him clinging to the rafters on either side where he stood. “Yeah,” he assured, “but I think I may have knocked some Sheetrock loose on their ceiling. My foot slipped off a joist.”
About thirty minutes later, there was a louder “uumphh.” This time, there was no question about the opportunity to repair a ceiling; Van’s lower half had disappeared into the upper half of a closet. His response to my query about his health and well-being changed a bit this time, too; “Ahh, I think I skinned up my shins a bit.”
Kicking to free his legs from the broken ceiling, he pulled himself up and apologized, “Sorry about that. I was trying to be careful but I guess I wasn’t careful enough.” “Don’t worry about it,” I responded, “It won’t take much to fix it. You sure you’re OK?”
It’s a little tricky, sometimes, trying to keep our footing and to keep doing the work we need to do. The extra effort of a stubborn nail, an awkward angle and slick dust underfoot can send us suddenly where we hadn’t planned to go. Those unanticipated trips often involve collateral damage that can sometimes take a few years to repair. Sometimes it’s our fault, sometimes it’s someone else’s and sometimes it’s just something that happened. Debating blame is not nearly as productive as working on the fixing.
Whether dealing with the aftermath of bad decisions or bad luck, I’ve noticed that it’s a lot easier to forgive the blunders of someone that we love. And that might, to some degree, explain God’s grace and patience with us.