Monday is usually my transition day, like a bridge between full weekend and equally full week. The house is still relatively clean from Saturday’s chores, routines are back in place, and it’s time to tidy up loose ends. Mondays are my ‘admin’ day, the day to write a grocery list, open emails, pay bills, and put the budget in order. I don’t mind Mondays.
But there are no Mondays when school is out, no more relatively clean house, and no routines, unless it’s the one summer week every young child (and parent) waits for: the week of vacation Bible school. It happened to be Monday of that epic week when my daughters, niece, and I juggled shoes and bags, coffee and happiness out the door and into the car. The girls – two VBS leaders and one participant – were brimming with fresh energy for the week ahead. I was not. I was about to brave morning traffic for a meeting far from home, the quiet home where loose ends and unopened emails were left waiting for my return. No admin Monday for me. There were places to go and schedules to keep.
Full disclosure: I may not have the best driving record. Shocking, I know. It’s quite unintentional, and I readily claim the disadvantages of being a female whose smaller stature isn’t considered by vehicle manufacturers. I also admit being a writer with an often cluttered mind and the type of personality that very much values the mental soothing of an admin Monday. These handicaps add up, particularly when tardiness is involved, coupled with the clamor of three sunny girls singing with the radio, but it was all over when my daughter noticed our neighbor beside us. I rolled down my window and waved ‘good morning’, flailing my arm like a good neighbor would, forgetting a good driver would take notice of the high speed on the odometer. A cop took notice for me.
Cue the lights, the elevated pulse, and the sinking disappointment. I was busted.
When I’m sitting at the side of the road with an officer behind me (I’d rather say, ‘That one time when I sat at the side of the road’, but this is a truth blog), anything on my mind prior to the lights and the 200 beats per minute instantly becomes ancient history. New thoughts churn like the contents in my stomach, usually beginning with, ‘how could I have been so stupid?’ Followed by, ’what will this cost?’ And naturally, ‘why doesn’t my lead foot husband ever get pulled?’
But there were two unique concerns this particular day that pressed on me with suffocating heaviness: 1) My detected speed was the kind that carries extra charges. 2) I’d been a terrible example for the precious girls sitting with me in silence. Disadvantages and excuses were of no use to me now, so I did the only thing I could think to do, the one thing that could calm my breath and alleviate my shame – I prayed out loud. I asked God for forgiveness, thanked Him for being there with us, for loving me in spite of my faults, and for keeping us safe on the road. And yes, I asked Him for the mercy of the lesser ticket. Because I was definitely getting a ticket – there was no fixing that. I was guilty. The end.
The officer returned with papers in hand, and peering through the window, floated words into my noiseless car I could barely comprehend. “Ma’am, I’ve written you a warning.” Sure, I had prayed for mercy, but I hadn’t expected the gift of overwhelming grace. I hadn’t earned it, I didn’t deserve it, and yet it had been given freely, no strings attached. I promise I was more flabbergasted pulling from the side of the road than I was when pulled over.
Grace changes things.
Four girls recounted the story several times over the next few days, each one adding the details they remembered, painting the scene in the style and emotion unique to the individual. Four descriptions of the same story, each one bearing the touch of personal experience, each one ending with the same undeserved kindness – just like the Gospels. Except grace isn’t the ending to the Gospel stories, grace IS the Good News story. Grace is the message of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Savior in whom the undeserving encounter compassion and the guilty are healed by forgiveness.
Guilt ends the story; grace writes a new beginning. Mistakes suffocate; grace revives. Teaching moments miss the mark; grace inspires a new lesson. It’s unexpected. Grace always is.
But grace is an incomplete story when we don’t allow it to change us. Imagine if the officer’s warning changed my consequence, but it didn’t change me and I continued in my speeding, inattentive ways. Imagine if I willingly accepted his kindness that morning and spent the rest of the day withholding kindness from everyone I met. Would my story of grace affect you? Would it make any impression at all?
When Jesus died for the guilty – you, me, everyone – His gift of salvation changed things by erasing our guilt and offering us a different eternal outcome, but His gift of grace was intended to change us every moment in between. Accepting God’s grace makes our lives the Good News story, a sweet message of grace for everyone around us, a message we can’t take credit for, but we should be eager to share.
Receiving the undeserved grace of Jesus Christ means gladly extending grace. Experiencing His incomprehensible kindness means responding with kindness and gratitude. Accepting His astounding forgiveness means generously forgiving. Imagine if Christ followers lived this way in a world so starved for grace and desperate for Good News. It might just be completely and wonderfully unexpected.
Read more about grace in my guest post for ProGrace!