I have a vintage Don Post Studios Darth Vader mask that I got in 1978, or ’79. It is dear to me because it comes from a happy time in my childhood (before my folks divorced), and because it is my one remaining piece of Star Wars gear (my mom gave the rest away–including a Millennium Falcon!).
At the time, it was a little pricey (around $60, I think), so my mom and I went in halfsies on it. Tell you what: that was paper route money well-spent. I was a happy kid that Halloween!
A few years ago, my friend came to visit my wife and I with his kids in tow. They had been friends with our son, but were then living out of state with their mother (think acrimonious divorce). At some point, our son got Darth out of hibernation. I cautioned him to be careful. We all took pictures. The kids played with the mask for awhile, then promptly forgot about it.
A little later, our friend’s daughter somehow managed to sit against the helmet, squeezing it between her body and the couch where it had been left. It cracked down the back.
In the ensuing moments, we had a choice to make: did we hold our friend accountable for the mishap, struggling though he was to make ends meet, or should we release him from any obligation?
Cliché, but what would Jesus do in a similar circumstance? My wife, the helmet being mine, left the final decision up to me.
In that moment, there was only one clear choice: I had to lay something precious down, and release my friend from any culpability arising from his daughter’s negligence. (I would estimate that the mask was worth +/- $500 at the time; in fact, one like mine sold for US $489 just last month).
Honestly, I didn’t have to let them play with it at all, but I did. I could have put it away when they were done, but I didn’t. Which is to say that the fault wasn’t all a little girl’s. So I forgave.
All this gets me to wondering how the homeowner in Mark 2:1-12 felt. He could have fixated on the fact that his roof was ruined by the men lowering in their paralytic friend, or taken ahold of a higher truth: someone was healed and forgiven in his house! Likewise, I could have demanded payment from my friend–after all, parents bear legal responsibility for their children’s actions. But would that have honored Jesus?
The tension that day in my house was between law and grace. And I chose grace. Not that I have always done so, mind you (just ask my wife and kids!), but that day I did. And I don’t regret it one bit.
Although it doesn’t say so in the text, I like to think that those four friends, long after their previously paralyzed friend had walked home, stayed behind to effect some roof repairs.
By the way, I have a cracked Darth Vader helmet for sale cheap! Offers being entertained. (Just kidding: it’s not for sale. Unlike the roof in the biblical text, my helmet is not reparable, but that’s okay: its sentimental value has not diminished one iota).