Friday, April 17, 2009

Wright Words: Pass the Grace, Please

Recently I was asked to write a column from time-to-time. After much hemming and hawing I finally agreed. Columns will appear here and on several other websites around the web. Below is my first. Hope you enjoy!


Wright Words: Pass the Grace, Please

Sunday morning. 9:17 AM. I'm 30 miles from home and racing to a chapel I'm unfamiliar with for a ward conference. A work zone approaches and out of the corner of my tired eye, I see a town police officer sitting behind some bushes holding what I hope is a sophisticated high-tech water gun.

It wasn't.

Did I receive a traffic ticket? Yes. Was it of the speeding variety? Yes. Did Officer Fife care that I was dressed in a suit and obviously racing to the aid of my beloved brothers and sisters in need? Not so much.

But that didn't stop me from asking for grace.

A few weeks later I put the same suit back on and appeared in an historic courthouse just a country mile from the scene of my crime. After watching half-a-dozen other hardened traffic criminals make their pleas for leniency, I was convinced my excuses were…well…better.

In fact, my entire strategy was can't-miss. I took my place at the defendant's table when summoned and prepped to make my case for grace.

“How do you plead?” The Judge asked.

“Your Honor, can I plead ‘guilty' to speeding, but ‘not guilty' to the severity of the speeding?”

His mouth said, “Excuse me?” But his face said, “Whatchoo talkin' ‘bout Willis?”

I explained how I'd been late for church in an area I'm unfamiliar with. I told him how careful I'd been that morning on the way to court, driving the exact speed limit through the same trap to gauge average MPH, and how I'd been blown off the road by a school bus and a man I judged too old to even hold a license. I even made a premeditated, well-rehearsed joke that five others in the courtroom thought was rather funny. Unfortunately for me, none of them were wearing black robes and grandpa glasses.

My appearance that day ended without the grace I so desperately sought, but with a pit stop at the court clerk's office to pay a hefty fine.

As I drove home that day—very slowly—I pondered my life's near-constant quest for grace. It seems I'm always asking others to grant it, but am I so quick to pass it on myself?

Perhaps you've sometimes fallen into the same trap.

Ever been late on a credit card payment and gotten the dreaded phone call? Without fail we seem to respond with the same universal line: “Grace, please?”

We're late returning a movie, a library book or a rental car: “Grace, please?”

Who hasn't missed a turn, an exit, or rolled through a stop sign and impeded the path of another car, only to fire off an apologetic wave of the hand and a sheepish grin. The grin itself is pleasant and quiet, but if it could it would scream through the car window, “Hey buddy! A little grace, eh? I'm in a hurry/lost/from-out-of-town/my-wife-is-pregnant/fill-in-the-blank.”

Or maybe like me you've missed a deadline for a project at work, a homework assignment or a new manuscript: What's the refrain? “Grace, please?”

It's part of life. It's who we are. It's how the plan of happiness was designed. It is that word, “grace”, that allows us to embrace repentance, change our minds and choices, and taste life's sweet second chances.

Why then when my children make a mistake, despite the fact that I made the same missteps at their age, am I often too slow to extend grace? Especially since heaven and the neighbors know I'm asking for it myself when the sun on trash day rises and sets with the cans still sitting at the side of the house—full.

Mrs. Wright has heard it before: "I'm sorry dear, it won't happen again. A little grace, please?" Fortunately for me, my wife isn't nearly as slow to pass the grace as I am.

Yes, we all want grace. Leniency. A fresh shot. An opportunity to forgive and forget, right? Except in my case it's more like, “You do the forgiving, I'll do the forgetting, thank you very much.”

How about you?

I wish I could promise that my expensive trip to ward conference—the talks were lovely, by the way—had changed my understanding of grace forever and I'm a better man for it. Nah. But I do think I'm trying just little harder to pass the grace more quickly and more often. Maybe we all could.

Because we can't expect everyone to pass it to us if we're not willing to pass it back, can we?


  1. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how ye ought to answer every man. Colossians 4:6

  2. Thanks. I enjoyed reading that article. Sorry about the lack of grace concerning your speeding ticket! We're in Philadelphia and my husband was just excused from a parking ticket...yeah for grace!
    Anyway, I looked you up because I seemed to remember that you live in Woodstock...I'm from the valley (Harrisonburg) but there's a chance my husband and I will be moving to Woodstock. I want to get in touch with someone from the branch and hear more about the church there and the area. Would you be so kind as to e-mail me a number (maybe the RS president?)? Whenever I call the ward building, there's no answer and no way to leave a message. THANK-YOU!

  3. Grace, for speeding and endangering other people's lives. Are you serious? And comparing speeding to someone being late with a credit card payment. Well, has a late credit card payment ever endangered anyone's life. I don't think so. How about simply taking responsibility for your mistakes? How does that sound?

  4. Jose, so nice of you to take the time to comment. Looks like the column touched quite a personal nerve with you. But I'm sure you've never sped, right? ;)

  5. Hi Jeff. Yes, I have sped a few times. But when I get caught, I don't ask the officer for forgiveness. My attitude on those few occasions when I have sped is that, yes, I'm guilty and I deserve the ticket. See, what we need to keep in mind is that no matter how important we feel our errand/mission/whatever is, we still have to live in the real world. We can't assume our own mission is more important than anyone else's.

  6. Sorry. I mean Jason, not Jeff (I know someone named Jeff Wright). Regards.

  7. I know a Jeff Wright, too, my brother. He lives in Centreville, VA. Any chance it's the same Jeff?

  8. No, it's someone in New York--someone from my crowd up there (not your brother, and also not the famous actor!)

  9. Ah well. Worth a shot!

    Thanks again for stopping by. I checked out your blog as well. You're quite a word smith yourself.

  10. Grace is my word of the year. My way to remind myself to extend it to others; to be a faithful servant; to be able to forgive; and to be of generous spirit so as to create goodwill. That pretty much sums up my focus on grace. With that, I really appreciate your writing; it is a blessing. The best to you and your family. -Kimberly

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