If you judge people, you have no time to love them.

-Mother Teresa


The Associated Press reports this morning: 

A woman charged in the drunken-driving death of her son went to a bar after his funeral instead of reporting back to jail, state police said.  A judge had given Erin Howard, 26, of Corry, permission to leave the Erie County Prison for 24 hours to attend her son’s funeral in Ohio, with orders to return to the lockup by 3 p.m. Saturday.  Instead, Howard went to a bar in Hamilton, Ohio, about a mile from the church where the funeral for 6-year-old Samuel Carpenter was held, police said.  Calls to Howard’s public defender went unanswered after business hours Monday.  Howard had been in prison in lieu of $75,000 bail on charges that she was driving drunk when she crashed into a creek bank near Corry, killing Samuel on June 14—her 26th birthday.  Pennsylvania police found out Sunday morning that Howard had been arrested in Ohio after her son’s father allegedly tipped off authorities to her whereabouts. She was being held in Ohio awaiting extradition to Erie.  Howard has now been charged with escape in addition to involuntary manslaughter, drunken driving, child endangerment, and other charges related to the crash.

What a tragic story and what deplorable behavior.  This mother is going to have a tough time getting over this.  Some of us, after reading this report might be saying, Good—she needs to think about what’s she’s done.  Maybe so.  The reality is this however: Erin Howard will need a lot more than time to get over what she’s done.  This woman will need grace, and for those of us who find it easy to point a finger and say How could she even think about going to the bar after such selfishness—let me suggest—the same way we could without the grace and mercy of God. 

 Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.   (James 2:12-13, The Message Bible)

This woman’s story isn’t much unlike a lot of people’s stories we rub shoulders with every day, and you don’t have to visit the local jail to meet folks who battle with the same kind of guilt this woman is sure to deal with soon.  People don’t have much trouble getting themselves into a pile of guilt—what they do have trouble finding is those rare people who would show a woman like this a shred of grace.   All the time in the world this woman may spend in jail won’t be worth one second of grace.  It’s a story like this that makes me wonder how many of us haven’t had to do the time we should have done for our transgressions?  Maybe I’m just a softie, but I’d just assume leave the justice part to the authorities, it sounds as if they will show her plenty. 

The question for us is quite simple: If we don’t share grace with a woman like this—who on earth are we going to show it to?