When I posted “The Value of a Woman” last week, I was pretty upset about my wife being treated poorly by a “scumbag” salesman. To those who took exception to my description of the salesman, I am well rebuked. Unfortunately, the words going through my head were much worse.
I wanted to confront this guy. At the very least, I wanted to look him in the eye, gently yet firmly inform him that his actions towards my wife had not been appreciated, and ask him to think twice before doing it again.
Yet as I prayed about the situation, I couldn’t get comfortable with that plan. I couldn’t imagine that this salesman was waiting around for me to straighten out his behavior, nor did I think that force was the right prescription. More than one trusted friend counseled against confrontation, arguing that the downside risk was great.
I finally resolved to go meet the salesman, look him in the eye and hand him a firmly and charitably worded letter.
That was my plan last Saturday, as I rose early and went for a jog. My mind was still unsettled, but as I ran, inspiration struck – a solution. Mercy. Click.
My prayers continued at Mass that morning, as I prayed for God’s guidance and felt a gentle surge of elation as I gratefully contemplated the gift of the Lord’s mercy. After Mass, I asked the priest if he had time to hear my confession and he readily agreed. As a convert, I love confession, and know well the grace of the sacrament.
This time the grace was particularly tangible. After making my confession, Father gave me a better plan. Don’t confront the salesman, said Father. Instead, mail him the letter. Keep it short, describing how his actions impacted Kathi and me. Then apologize for being so angry with him.
As I thought about this further, I recognized the wisdom in Father’s plan. This would provide the salesman with an opportunity to understand the impact of his actions in the context of being offered mercy. It would invite him to change in the future. And it would allow God to deal with any retribution or punishment, according to his divine will.
We all need mercy. In many ways, I feel like the woman in Luke 7 whose many sins were forgiven. Heck, if you’ve read my conversion story “Son of a Preacher Man” in Surprised By Truth 2, the opening line is “Sometimes I think the greatest thing that ever happened to me spiritually was getting kicked out of Franciscan University in Steubenville.” Can you imagine? I need mercy more than most!
Just as there are consequences to sin, I know there are also consequences to mercy – “blessed be the merciful.” If we desire God’s mercy, we owe mercy to others. Not easy, but worth the effort.
By grace, here is how the rest of the situation played out:
- We ended up selling the car to a family friend, who really needed it
- Kathi was deeply touched by our family drawing together to defend her
- Our children got a visceral lesson in a Lowry family axiom – Honor Mom
- We were all given an opportunity to grow in charity and forgiveness
- The salesman has been invited to change – please pray God touches his heart
Some of the strong emotions I experienced through this situation are a reflection of my deep love for Kathi. In so many ways, she is the greatest gift God has given me on this earth. It hurts when someone is contemptuous towards that which we hold dear. Yet through this experience, I sensed an invitation to strive for increased holiness by honoring God’s great mercy with my small and feeble imitation.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment on the first post. Are there times like this when you have trusted God and things have worked out better than you could have planned? Have you seen bad circumstances turn into blessings?
Please feel free to share – this blog is about gratitude and encouragement, so your stories are always most welcome. May God’s grace and peace be with you!