Two months ago I Failed My Driving Test. The first time FAIL was permanently recorded big black and bold on the back of my driving permit. My second FAIL was even more humiliating, so I was really not looking forward to my third try yesterday. What if I fail again? I nervously approached the counter and felt the exposure of my past mistakes, as the clerk examined those two FAILs on the back of my permit. “Have you had a license before?” he asked. “Well, we've been living overseas for 20 years and my old Kansas license expired about five years ago.” “OK. Just take a seat and wait for your name to be called.”
During the waiting time before my first test, I tried to convice myself, “I know how to drive. I just need to show them that I can.”
Before my second test, I kept reminding myself, “Go slow through the school zone and all will be well.”
After my second test, the examiner's assessment was, “You started out really well, but about halfway through you fell apart. You had four incomplete stops.” Really?
So this third try, as my mouth became more and more dry and my palms increasingly sweaty, my mantra was, “Slow and stop.” I also knew I was in need of grace. A grace-giving examiner please.
“She looks kind of mean,” I whispered to Charly as I saw one examiner leave the building followed by one of my fellow test takers. “You'll do fine with any examiner. Don't worry,” he reassured me.
Another test taker returned and gave high fives to all of his family members in the waiting area. I felt happy for him, and new hope surged in my heart. There's definitely a more positive feeling in this room than last time. But wait, what if they are required to give a certain number of fails a day? Then other people passing their tests might hurt my chances...
My name was called. I jumped up and gripped the car keys tightly.
“So why did you fail your other tests?” My examiner pointedly asked after she had checked my turn signal and brake lights and was fastening her seat belt. “The first time I went too fast in a school zone, and the second time I didn't come to complete stops,” I confessed. There's my past. Nothing hidden.
“I think you're going to get it this time,” she told me. “I have faith in you.”
Really? I started to breathe more normally.
“The kid I tested before you was on his third try too and he passed.”
My hands relaxed on the steering wheel.
Thank you God.
We chatted about our families and about the state of the world as she gave me instructions on what to do. And even though I made some mistakes, like running through a yellow light and waiting too long before getting into a turn lane, I felt like she was on my side. This is the day, I dared to hope. I think I might pass.
I pulled into the open parking space in front of the DMV and turned off the car. “I'm sorry to tell you,” she started, not even waiting until we got inside to go over my results. Oh no. Not again!
“I won't be able to go driving with you again.” Relieved, I smiled at her sense of humor, and felt like jumping out of my seat to give her a hug.
She went on to tell me some things I had done well and some areas I needed to pay attention to. “You have to get an 80 to pass, and you got a 92.”
Charly's eyes were worried when I got back inside. I'd been gone longer than he'd counted on, and he thought maybe I'd gotten into an accident out there. That would have been a definite fail, he figured. So he too smiled with relief and gave me a high five when I told him the good news.
The real good news is Grace, isn't it? An incredibly generous gift that we receive with open undeserving hands. Not a reward to be earned at the end of the day with a righteous sense of entitlement.
It's a gift of new life under the new covenant. No longer bound to the Law of the old covenant.
God does not sit beside us in our tests of life with a clipboard in hand, eager to record our every little mistake. And He never ever writes FAIL in permanent black marker over our identity.
He whispers to our hearts when we feel most vulnerable, “I think you're going to get it this time. I have faith in you.”
This is my Gift of Grace. My Son.
Jesus. Who came from the highest place in heaven, down to meet the lowest on this earth, to give us grace, grace, and more grace.
“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” (John 1:16)