This is the last part of the story. If you're reading for the first time go to Pts. 1, 2, and then 3.
We'd all had a few days of silence. We had been out camping and we hadn't heard from the family, the officer, and our boat had not been returned while we were away. We were convinced, however, of our third way, and that evening we invited the family over to talk things through. When they came over about a half-hour later, their faces were somber, I could feel the tension of them all standing in my living room, so I invited them to sit down at our table so we could talk.
Stefan took the lead and gave them the background of why we felt conflicted, according to evidence, but how we were also confused, based on this person's character and integrity they'd shown us in previous instances. The family was starting to relax a little, and I knew they'd be happy with what I had to say. When I explained what grace meant to us, and how we would like to offer it to [them], the relief was palpable. Smiling faces, tears from the mother, and the health of our relationship with them felt restored. We told the person that when we see them around town, there is no judgment, no bad thoughts, no sour feelings. We're done. It will be like it never even happened, and since we had kept the individual's identity (and gender) a secret, no one was the wiser except who they had told personally. We were serious when we said it would be water under the bridge. Over and done.
A few days later I heard a knock at the door and thinking it was the mailman I answered for signing a delivery. It was someone I had never seen or met. They introduced themselves and the person said, "I think I have something that belongs to you". Thinking it was a neighbor who had found a package that belonged to me, but instead found it on their door, I said, "oh, I'm Sarah Mast", thinking my name would be the qualifier I needed to retrieve my package (the mail here is pretty terrible, they're always confusing our addresses in this neighborhood).
"I have your canoe." They seemed visibly relieved and stressed out at the same time.
"Oh?! How did you acquire it?" I asked, still thinking maybe the other person had sold it to them.
"Well...I thought it was abandoned* and so I took it for a float down the river. I realize now what a terrible thing I've done. I am so sorry. I feel so bad. I could loose my job over this! It was such a stupid thing to do!"
I was shocked. Our canoe was returned! I told them I was so thankful for their honesty and that they demonstrated a lot of integrity by coming to my door, apologizing face-to-face and returning it. I told them I was so thankful for that I gave them a hug. I now know who this person is and feel that all the relationships have been now well restored. There is peace between all of us.
Prayer. Apologies. Forgiveness. Grace.
I was practically riding high for the next day or two amazed at this simple prayer I had offered up a week earlier--to convict who had stolen it, and to show us a good way to handle the situation, and how it was generously answered for all of us. God cares about the details. He cares about the people in this story, and He cares about you. I can't explain the sense of going 'a third way' and the feeling it would turn out right other than knowing it was from Him. For some reason, He wanted this situation to go the way it did, twists, turns, and all. He wanted to demonstrate his grace to these two individuals (and families) and he wanted us to show faith and trust.
Our canoe is back in it's original spot now. We took it out last weekend to get a glimpse of a seal colony near our house, in the fog. It was a perfect morning for a boat ride with the kids, and we saw a good 30 seals just feet away. I hope that little boat has many more travels with us.
I tell this story because I need to hear stories of grace in ordinary situations. We need to know when others are showing their families, friends, neighbors, and community members grace and working to heal relationships around them. We need these stories in our lives to give us encouragement, and more importantly, bravery for when it's our turn. Because you will have a choice, someday, to show someone a little grace.
*remember the property it sat next to had been empty for many months, this isn't unrealistic, but obviously should have asked around*