We started the New Year with a bang! Not of pots and pans clanging as in years past or of firecrackers traditional. We were just five hours short of the midnight hour, to be exact.
Zach backed out of the garage with Nick in the passenger seat on his way to a friend’s for an overnight when—BANG!—the car crashed into our company’s van, caving in the wheel housing. Zach comes in all upset and the husband, the owner of the van, a pastor, gives grace. He and Zach and Todd go out to assess the damage.
In the single-digit cold, the men and our son work to pull off the bumper after scrambling to find the toolbox. At least, they try to get the vehicle able to drive the family home. Zach feels horrible. Todd guesses the repair will cost us around $2,000.
Upon saying goodbye, our pastor friend asks if it would be alright to have a word of prayer before he and his family leaves. After all, it’s New Year’s Eve and what better way to end the year and begin a new than with prayer. So our tender-hearted pastor friend begins—and so does our son.
Zach begins crying. And shaking. And I move closer to him and put my arm around him and whisper soft in his ear that’s it’s alright—HE’S alright—everything will be alright. And he cries some more, wiping his eyes in embarrassment and still shaking.
When our pastor friend finishes, he sees Zach’s wet face, red eyes, and steps forward. A big bear of a man, he opens both arms and embraces Zach and says, “Son, it’s alright.” Clearly, this man knows that hearts and souls are far more important than vans or bank accounts. I can’t help but tear up myself. Because this is grace lived out in the moment, in human flesh empowered by God. Not getting what we deserve, but getting what we need—love in the midst of our brokenness—in the midst of our screw-ups—in the midst of all our feelings of not deserving love at all when all we’ve done is make one mistake after another, even despite our best efforts.
And Zach accepts his grace—HIS grace—whether he knows it or not in the moment. I do. I know that NO ONE can extend grace unless they know the GRACE extended to them—through Jesus—BY Jesus.
And then the New Year comes.
The next morning we open a letter received that has been sitting on our counter for several days. It’s from the landlord—the owner of the apartment our daughter lived in for less than two years and the same apartment our son took over for a short two weeks after signing a lease—a lease Zach broke because he wasn’t ready to live independently. Long-standing, problematic, serious behaviors caused him to lose his job—his income—his source of rent payment—the one and only job he’s ever been able to get because of disabilities NOT HIS FAULT.
Jack Verhelst knows our situation. We were forthright with him when Anna moved in. She has disabilities, but we assured him that she was safe and responsible and that we would pay her rent on time and cover any costs incurred by her. We told Jack the same when Zach moved in.
This WWII veteran is a man of grace, just like our pastor friend visiting New Year’s Eve. He actually LOWERED Anna’s rent last year, just to be kind to us. She doesn’t drive, so when she discovered her bicycle had been stolen from the garage, Jack wrote her a check to cover the cost of a new one.
Who DOES this?
And yesterday? The letter?
In a business-like fashion, Jack listed all the moving out expenses of both our kids, now 22 and 20:
Repair of bedroom wall with permanent decal — $25
Damage to lower entrance wall — $25
Paint over red wall in hallway — $50
Restore entire apartment to off-white after new tenant vacates — $200
December rent not paid due to vacating and breaking lease — $440
Balance due: $740
And then at the bottom of the letter, we see the $740 crossed out with a big, black X and a comment written underneath . . .
“Forget it! You have enough problems!”
Jack knows we’ve been struggling emotionally. Yet . . .
We owed him.
Rightfully, legally—he could make us pay our debt.
But he didn’t!
He canceled it and he incurred all costs himself!
This is Jesus with skin on! This is what Jesus did and does for each and every one of us!
We all come before the perfect God with a debt, with multiple mars. If we were aware of even half of our transgressions, even half of our imperfections, we would tremble before our holy, perfect God, the Judge who has the power and the right to sentence us—to make us pay for our transgressions against Him—against others—against ourselves—against every single thing He created.
But He doesn’t!
He does not make us pay!
He says . . .
“Paid in full!”
He canceled our debt at Calvary. He paid for our failures—our every single day failures—with His own blood. And He asks us . . .
Who condemns us after He has sent all our accusers away with their tails between their legs, recognizing their own imperfections? And then He says to each and every one of us who dare to look Him straight in the eye and receive His words when we say that all our accusers—all our condemners—even ourselves—have gone . . .
“Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:9-11)
Written in red letters on a page.
Written in blood for all time.
Because life is in the blood. Ask me how I know. A friend has leukemia and is fighting for life. We’re praying.
But we know we will fail again. And again. And again . . .
And Jesus knows.
He knows the heart. Each and every heart. Every dark space. Every hidden place. All we try to hide. He knows.
He knows our heart.
And the heart is what matters.
Do we earnestly seek Him? Do we earnestly want to leave our sins behind?
He knows our weaknesses.
He knows my failures—my repeated, persistent failures that grieve me because I know they grieve Him.
And he says to those of us with goodwill—with desire for holiness though falling far short . . .
“I will never leave your nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 & Hebrews 13:5)
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Let me close my ego and open my heart to such grace—to such undeserved affection—to such amazing love!
Thank you pastor friend!
Thank you former landlord!
Thank you Lord Jesus!
Grace. Grace. GRACE!
Let me embrace and soak and saturate myself in GRACE—and then . . .
Let me invite others into the embrace . . .
Let me embrace others with grace . . .
For by Your grace alone, can one DO such a thing . . .
By Your grace alone, can frail humans like me . . .
Perform miracles . . .
Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Praise God all creatures here below! Praise Him above the heavenly host!
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!