The difference between sinful and boneheaded

On Tuesday, I secured a front-runner place for the Golden I Award (that’s for idiot of the year) by backing into a parked car in the church parking lot.

Now, if you have to have unwanted vehicular contact, this is the way to do it. I have no one to blame but myself. I knew the car was there. I just didn’t look in the right place (and later, I realized the white car, the salt-encrusted windows, and the booster seat in the back really did make the other vehicle hard to see. Not an excuse.) It’s the first time I’ve ever been at fault in an accident, and the fault is entirely mine.

I found the owner of the car in the church hall and explained, and she apologized to me. I said, “Let’s see. Your car was legally parked, and I backed into it. No, ¬†I think you’re in the clear.” There’s damage on her bumper even though I was at lower than idle speed. I’m going to be paying the stupid tax.

Afterward, I went home and did my morning prayers, and about halfway through the rosary I got in my head the words I’d heard once before in prayer, that there’s a difference between seriously sinful on the one hand and boneheaded on the other, and I’d fallen squarely on the side of boneheaded. Which ought to make me feel better, but didn’t at first.

What I found upsetting was that minutes before then, at daily Mass, I’d been praying about my feelings of anger at myself. That those angry feelings are the enemy of true humility, and I wanted them replaced with something else, but only God knew what would be best. And what did I get for that? Humiliated?

The response was no, I’d gotten to see how God responded to me. Because here in this life, I’m not trying to offend or hurt God, but frequently I do something boneheaded, and it’s sinful. And how does God react?

Pretty much the way that woman did. She told me it was all right, that it was just a hassle and not something terrible, that she accepted my offer to make things right and wasn’t angry, she understood it was a lapse and not malice. That I wasn’t a bad person. Without ever saying it, she forgave me for harming her vehicle, and by extension harming her.

I thought about Jesus, carrying a cross up a hill, and her, sitting in a body shop waiting room getting an estimate, and for a moment they were the same thing. She had acted as Jesus to me; I had acted as a sinner to her, and it was going to be made right because I was willing and she was forgiving.

I could see in my head Jesus in that parking lot, hugging me and telling me it was okay even though I’d screwed up. That he could love me anyhow and not be angry with me. Which if he could do it, seeing me as I truly am, then so should I.

Meaning my prayer got answered after all, just not in a way I expected.