The final installment in our series of entries from Judgment & Love. Again, J&L is a collection of 35 true-life stories illustrating the powerful truth that when love is shown in the face of deserved judgment, lives are changed. To order your copy at the reduced price of $10, go here or click on the button at the bottom of the post.
Nicole’s head popped into my window, “I think it’s gonna blow!” She was wild-eyed and also screaming in a stage whisper. “I heard hissing—so I tried to fit my body out the window but I couldn’t so I used the door.” She was hysterical and instilled panic in all of us. All nine of us spilled out of the truck, some through windows and others through doors. We sprinted across a park and into the night shadows. At a safe distance from a potential SUV explosion we turned around and watched. The car was deathly still as it emitted its final pops and moans.
When we decided it wouldn’t actually blow up the boys were interested in one thing only: what lie to tell the cops. As we walked back to the sidewalk Amanda began to cry. She mostly made a foghorn noise, but I managed to hear that she was describing over and over how gruesomely her mother would kill her. I was ready for handcuffs.
I was ready to go to jail and I thought I might. When the police came they heard “the story” from my friends. Then the main officer took me and put me in the back of his police car. “You’re going to tell me the truth,” he said over his shoulder. I told him everything. I took full responsibility. I heard about “kids like me” and how much I had hurt and disappointed everyone’s parents, who had now congregated outside. I heard about how I could have killed everyone. And it was true. I was judged and found guilty.
I hadn’t even teared-up until that moment. “We’re all just so thankful no one’s hurt. Don’t worry, this happens to all of us.” It was the first time I felt any emotion except hate since the crash. I didn’t hate the policeman, the parents, or my passengers; I hated myself. Their judgment didn’t spur my remorse or regret; I generated it all on my own. Their judgment permitted me to feast on self- hatred and destruction. (As a full-blown anorexic, I was well-versed this practice.) The love Jessica’s dad poured out shot through the familiar numbness that crushed me. Warmth and caring flooded my veins. His compassion carried me through the night. The grace my parents gave me when I called them the next day not only carried me through nine phone calls of apology and insurance information, but allowed me to experience the acceptance—not resentment—of all the people involved that night.
We are used to the transformation of public mistakes into examples of how not to be. I expect loud remarks, rebuking looks, and sighs of disappointment when I do wrong. I do not expect love—I don’t think anyone does. Loving someone who has hurt you is tremendously difficult. Jessica’s dad was a conduit of supernatural grace and love to me as a teenager, and I am forever grateful. For only with God’s help can we realize the suffering inherent in forgiveness, and the sacrifice that is love.
My favorite band, Waterdeep, sings about undeserved love:
Oh, God, it hurts so bad
to love anybody down here.
But oh, that’s right, you know so well
one thorny crown,
three nails and a spear.