My dad kept a coin jar on his dresser. Every night when he got home from work, the first thing he did was head upstairs to change his clothes. You could hear the familiar jangling of pennies as they spilled from his pocket and he set them in the jar. When I was about nine years old, I decided his coins should be mine. Over time I pilfered a few nickels here, a handful of pennies there. Before I knew it, I had successfully swindled my dad out of his loose change, and he never even noticed.
Sometime later, guilt gripped me. I knew that what I’d been doing could only be considered stealing. I had no way to explain away my behavior. With a pounding heart, I penned an apology to him, confessing my sin and asking him to forgive me. I tucked it under his coin jar along with a pile of pennies as restitution.
I waited anxiously for my dad to confront me. Day One went by, and he didn’t say anything. Another day passed; still nothing. And then another, and another. Eventually, I forgot about the note.
Then one day out of the blue, my dad stepped into my bedroom, and said, “Marian, I got your note and the pennies.” My heart raced; my throat felt like a marble was lodged in it. I didn’t know what to expect next. I didn’t see a belt gripped in his hand, as I would have expected after behaving so badly, and he didn’t seem especially upset. In fact, if I didn’t know better (and at nine, I didn’t), he seemed on the verge of tears. But that didn’t make any sense. I had wronged him. He had every right to be mad and punish me. Instead he said, “Thank you.” And then he gave me a hug.
And then he left.
We never spoke of it again.
I stood there dumbfounded. Why, when I fully deserved my father’s wrath, did he instead show me mercy? I didn’t deserve it; I hadn’t earned it. I felt like a criminal let off scot free!
This was my first powerful lesson on judgment and grace. Since then I’ve never gotten over the way grace feels. It’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never does. It’s experiencing utter relief and humility in the face of guilt because you know how bad you can be, but God (or your daddy) chooses to love and forgive you anyway. It is truly God’s riches at Christ’s expense.
I’ll never fully understand why God chooses to extend his grace to all and yet reserve judgment for some. But I do understand how it feels to be the beneficiary of his grace, and in this lifetime, knowing that is enough.
In what ways have you experienced the sweet relief of grace?