Uncommon grace

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Attention in the media these days for the debut of Laura Bush’s book, From the Heart spotlights the negative incident in the early years of the former first lady’s life. She relates revealing details of a teenage auto accident in which the car she was driving hit a car driving by a classmate, killing him. Does Laura Bush’s experience and revelation hit a nerve in many of us, or are we too mired in the negative to recognize our own failings in her terrible misfortune?

Most people admire the image of the former first lady regardless of political affiliation. Always the epitome of how most Americans believed a first lady should look, dress and act, she was never seen out of that image. She exhibits classiness combined with kindness wrapped up in a quiet impeccable style. Add to that her unstinting loyalty to family and her generosity of spirit and service and you have one of the main ingredients of embodiment of the spirit and ethos of America.

Now has Laura made a classic misstep in writing us her memoir? Does she now feel the media’s insatiable appetite for criticism and smear. A good number will look forward to personal enjoyable stories but others will tear apart any tidbit for unconstructive cruel ridicule. We’ve all seen it numerous times and no one is exempt whether politician, warrior, actor, royalty, or common man.

Vicious attacks have already begun on television and in the press. Daily, we see journalism that could charitably be described as “in poor taste.” Vilifying so many of the good, the gentle and decent sadly reinforces a view of a less than empathetic America and diminishes the inherent greatness of our nation.

Surely Laura is prepared for this. She has offered up a soft spot yes, but the iron of her character will show in her usual courteousness. As even that personal control will invite even more contemptible criticism, perhaps opportunity will win out once the churlish and childish giggles are over. Who, after all cannot empathize with Laura Bush’s call to God for deliverance of the young man who lost his life? We can all mentally place our daughters or sisters in Laura’s circumstances. Were the book penned by a Timothy McVey, mustering up sympathy would be difficult but for Laura Bush, the good decent American will pour out compassion for this lady who endured such trauma at such a young age.

In his book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace, Philip Yancey floods us with stories of what he calls ‘ungrace’, that most unfortunate state of mind in which an argument cannot be resolved nor a slight forgotten nor a hurt repaired.  At some time during our lives most of us have undergone an episode of ‘ungrace’. The pain may fade as we mature but too many carry a grudge or guilt to our death (or at least our death bed when we hear of regrets and apologies and a begging to God for forgiveness as we face the unknown).

Laura Bush has selected a time in her life to expose to the public what it feels like to step out of ‘ungrace’ into renewed grace. Restored faith is a gift she will offer to many. Perhaps in relaying this healing moment as she wrote the words of guilt and abject sorry, she will heal many others. She does not make excuses for the accident nor does she rail at God but only begs forgiveness and relief for her perceived culpability. It’s hard to grasp the insensitivity of those suffering souls who criticize Laura Bush’s character and condemn a 17-year old’s struggle with faith.

Because of her revelations, thousands will relate and many will benefit. Future accidents may be avoided as we reinforce the need for vigilance when behind the wheel. Hopefully forgiveness of ourselves for whatever lurks in our past will allow an acceptance of peace…even among the hard hearted who make a living preying on the misfortune of others.

Despite declarations by one journalist that God does not grant personal favors, we can point to many who believe the opposite; believe that God heals a sick relative, believe the rains come upon the dry crops just in time; believe that the hand of God is not cruel in the ultimate sacrifice of a son or daughter or spouse, but creates a strength in the surviving that surpasses death and injects a pride from which the rest of us benefit.

So for Laura Bush and for so many the prayer answered versus the unanswered is a mystery that, God willing, we shall come to understand in good time.

Those media who now may be giddy with ridicule of this exceptional lady might try emulating a most admirable Laura Bush characteristic: her inability to directly criticize another soul

Gail Dawson McNally is the author of the religious thriller, The Return, available at Amazon Books.