We were late for a family-reading night at our youngest child’s school. It was dark and cold. The end-of-winter ground was oozing mud, and the parking lot was packed. I slowed our minivan in front of the brightly lit building, wondering where to park. And that’s when I saw it: just enough room off the edge of the pavement to pull alongside another vehicle.
“Do you think it’s OK?” I asked my husband, Dana, who sat in the front passenger seat while our young sons prattled impatiently in the back.
I wasn’t looking for guidance. I was looking for assurance that I wouldn’t get a ticket if a police officer came by. And the truth is, I don’t know what Dana said because I was out the door before he could reply. As I unbuckled our preschooler from his seat, I slowed just enough to notice that the ground beneath my winter boots was strangely squishy. But I rushed inside to join the other families anyway.
An hour or so later, we returned to our van, happy and tired and eager to get home. But when I put our van in reverse, the wheels spun. I tried driving the van forward. Nothing. Dana got out to push. Still nothing. Then my tired, patient husband opened his door and said, “You are all the way up to your axle in mud.”
Only then did the full impact of my situation sink in. Because I had been in too much of a hurry to look for a proper parking place, I’d gotten us stuck. My effort to save five minutes would cost us many times that as two generous dads worked alongside Dana to pull our vehicle out of the mud, which required Dana to lie down full length in a puddle to hook up a tow rope so another driver could pull the van out.
I was rightfully embarrassed. Especially when a police officer actually did come by and asked whether we needed help. I looked at the 16-inch deep grooves our tires had left on the town lawn and asked whether we needed to fix it. “Looks good to me,” he said kindly.
To his credit, Dana, who was soaked from his knees to his chin, did not say one word about all the trouble I’d caused as we finally drove home. Later, he was even generous enough to laugh about it. But as I thought of my impatience and willingness to forgo what I knew to be right – parking on the pavement – to do what was convenient, I realized how often such choices lead to trouble.
“It is a sin to know what you ought to do and then not to do it,” the apostle James wrote (James 4:17 NLT). The price of our sin is often paid by others, like those helpful dads and my dear husband, who shivered all the way home. In this case, Dana recovered after a quick shower. But getting stuck in the mud reminded me that the results of my wrongdoings regularly go much deeper – a reason to reflect, during this season of Lent, on who paid the ultimate price for our sins.
Meadow Rue Merrill, the author of Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine.