When I was a boy, I had trouble keeping up with things (that hasn’t changed much, but we’ll leave that for another day). A particularly bad habit of mine was leaving my school books and/or homework at home. This usually meant I would have to call my dad and ask him if he could bring it to me. Fast forward a few decades, and I can understand how this could get really old for him, really fast. And it did.
This one particular day in elementary school, I realized that I had left my homework at home with my book. My heart started pounding as I thought about what my dad was going to say. I’m pretty sure the previous time he said something like:
“This better be the LAST time this happens, Allosh1!”
Whatever was coming, I definitely dreaded it (though I deserved it). We didn’t get grounded growing up. I didn’t know what that even meant until some kid in middle school told me. We got punished the old-fashioned way. You know, like with a belt (or whatever my dad could find, or his bare hands). My dad didn’t mess around. He set us straight. The right way.
So I put off making a phone call, thinking “Maybe she will forget to ask for the homework today.” Which actually did happen sometimes. And I loved it. Some kids hated it and would even remind the teacher if it got close to the end of the class. Every class had one of those kids. No offense if you were like that. I understand now. College Zack puts a lot of work into papers and such and feels like he wasted time if its not taken up. I get it now. But elementary Zack was different. To elementary Zack, a teacher forgetting to collect homework that was left at home was amazing grace, for sure.
It wasn’t very long at all into the school day, though, that I was called to the office. Contrary to how I’ve made my past self seem, this was not a common occurrence. Having to tell my dad that I got in trouble and I left my homework at home was just too much. I was about to die. For real.
When I got there, though, this was waiting for me:
Amazing, undeserved grace from my father, in the form of a home-made card and the stuff I forgot. I was expecting (and deserving of) him to be upset and to give me consequences, but instead he chose to give me grace. He saw that I had left my books and homework at home, and brought it to school before I could even call him about it.
Nearly twenty years later, coming across this still gives me that feeling of relief and love for my dad.
But it also makes me ask myself: Do I show grace to people when they would least expect it? When people are anticipating that I’ll blow up at them or judge them, do I live up to their expectations or surprise them with grace and understanding?
The grace poured out for me (and you, and you, and you) is so amazing because it is so undeserved. I’m constantly humbled by how even when I knowingly disobey God’s perfect commandments, when I lay it down at God’s feet, Jesus’ response will always be:
“I do not condemn you. Go now and sin no more.” (John 8:11)
Grace that amazing is meant to be shared. How can I say to Jesus that I’m thankful for His grace if I don’t treat others with that same grace, understanding, and love? The sad reality of the American church is that too many groups of people expect to be judged and/or mistreated by Christians. Lately, it’s been my conviction to make sure I don’t contribute to that.
Christ saved me from God’s wrath. No one should be afraid of mine2.
1 Allosh is the nickname often given to kids whose name is Ali. It is what my dad usually called me, even as a young adult.
2 Unless they cut me off.3
3 Jk. I’m working on it. But seriously, don’t.