The Tent

Sometimes it really isn’t easy to extend grace. I think it partly has to do with the fact that we are broken people dealing with other broken people, but it partly has to do with the fact that sometimes people just do things that make you want to mentally punch them in the face.

I could see that he was trying. It one of the birthdays after my parents separated and my father moved out. My father bought me a tent. A tent. A tent is a ridiculous thing to buy someone who has not only has never been camping, but also no longer has her father to take her camping. I remember going with my mother to Target to return the tent for less than its original price because my father had not only bought me a terrible gift, but he had bought it on sale. It’s not like this was the first time my father had given a terrible gift—one year he bought a vacuum cleaner for my mother for Christmas. Let’s face it; guys are kind of dumb when it comes to gift-giving. But he was trying.

Dial back to one of my fifth grade sleepovers. I asked my father to cover the deck with tarps so that my friends and I could all sleep outside. Needless to say, I pictured the whole situation going a lot better in my head than in actuality. It ended up not working and I think we just slept in the garage. (Don’t ask why we couldn’t just be normal and sleep in the living room.) From then on, we usually had our sleepovers at Amanda’s house or Krista’s house—any house where they actually had a tent, or a father, for that matter. It has been years since that sleepover that my father bought me that tent. I was well passed the stage in my life where it was fun to have sleepovers, much less sleepovers outside. But my father and I didn’t have much of a relationship after he left, so in his eyes, I was still the same ten-year-old that wanted my dad to cover the deck with tarps.

As I look back, I can see that he was trying. It was quite the failed attempt, but at least he was trying. And how did I respond? “That’s a dumb present. Mom, let’s return it so I can get some money.” I definitely didn’t respond with grace. I could easily pass that off as something that I did because I was young and we all know that young people do stupid things. So what’s my excuse for not extending grace now?

I can see a father who left me, but grace looks beyond that into something greater, something deeper. Grace in action looks a lot like compassion. I think the whole world could use a little more of that.

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