“For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Rom 5:15 NIV)
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.” (2 Cor 2:14 NIV)
It was when someone brought up the subject of the public library yesterday that I suddenly remembered. Perhaps subconsciously I had wanted to forget, for no one likes to remember times when they let circumstances control them. Nonetheless, it seems that God didn’t want me to forget this particular incident . . .
It had been a VERY hectic day. I was facing a mountain of responsibilities and assignments at school, and I stayed there a bit longer than usual. When I noticed just how late it was, panic overcame me. I didn’t have enough time to finish my “chores” before my wife got home from work! (The fact that I thought of this particular activity that I usually enjoy sharing with my boys as a “chore” was only a further reflection of my sour mood!)
As soon as I arrived home, I started yelling at the boys to get ready for our “chore”-our weekly trip to the public library to return last week’s borrowed items and to choose new books and videos for the upcoming week.
Both my kids came running and excitedly put on their coats. They obviously didn’t perceive this activity as a “chore”! But their hands were too empty. Where was the bag of books to be returned?
“Euh… guys…” I knew my mood was volatile, and I purposefully tried to remain calm. “Did you prepare the book bag like I asked you to this morning?”
“Oh no!” Was the inevitable reply. “We forgot!”
Off came their shoes, and as they scampered all around the house in search of the missing books and videos, my heart stood still. My watch kept on ticking, however, and a rush of unhealthy emotion began invading my very being, making the panic that had previously resided there seem like the calm before the storm. But I gritted my teeth to swallow the words I wanted to scream. I could handle the battle that was raging within my heart!
After what seemed like an eternity, the boys reappeared and began putting their shoes back on. They were grinning. They obviously had no idea that they were facing a deadly atomic bomb that was only being held in check by my frail attempts at self-control.
“We have the bag, Papa!” They exclaimed.
Their enthusiasm should have been catchy, but today it only grated on my raw emotions. Moving cautiously so that the atomic bomb inside of me wouldn’t detonate, I managed to safely reach the car. There, I tried to gain a tiny element of further control by taking some deep breaths. Nothing I could do, however, seemed to budge the feeling of unrest. As I pulled out of the driveway, headed for that the so-anticipated public library, I ventured to ask (in a relatively calm voice): “Did you check to see if you have all the books and videos?
The sweet voice of my youngest, so full of innocence and self-assurance, answered me. “Yes! We have everything!”
I wish I could have had even half of the assurance that he so obviously harbored! “Please check,” I said between gritted teeth. The “please” came out with a little more force than necessary.
It was only a brief two seconds before the news was broadcasted: “Papa! We forgot a video case!”
The atomic bomb started ticking. “Do you know where you left it?” I tried to ask, in a weakening attempt to still control my emotion.
That was all it took to pull the pin! The bomb shook the very fibers of the van as the windows bulged outward and the seats rocked in their spots. Even I was shocked by the power of the explosion. Especially as I saw the eyes of my boys turn from calm blue and brown to horrified yellow. Interestingly, the video case was retrieved in record time!
But it wasn’t over. The radiation from the bomb had to be diffused, and the drive to the library wasn’t exactly pleasant. My boys were the recipients of a very long and pointed lecture on the importance of immediate obedience, especially when it came to preparing the library bag first thing in the morning.
In all fairness to them, they seemed to be very impressed by the verbal torrents, but I knew deep inside that we would be back to square one next week. Some stronger action had to take place! My point HAD to be driven in, and any possible lingering radiation from the atomic explosion had to be diffused!
It took me a few moments to contemplate just exactly how to make them understand the gravity of their crime. Finally I concluded that they would face heavy consequences. Would a firing squad be sufficient, or maybe I could send them to Iraq as paramilitary volunteers…?
That’s when I finally heard the soft voice: “What were YOUR consequences for not listening to ME?”
I was immediately overcome with shame. My own attitude had been far worse than forgetting to put a book bag together. In fact, throughout that entire afternoon, my whole demeanor had stunk! I had let circumstances control me, and instead of being a fragrant Christian, I had become an agent of turmoil and stress!
“What would Jesus do if He was in my shoes?” Whispered the voice.
I immediately parked the van on the side of the road and turned around to face my sons. “Guys,” I said, “I need to give you your consequence now.”
Their eyes grew bigger and I could see them start to cower in their seats. They didn’t seem to notice the tear that ran unashamedly down my face.
“Now?” Ventured my youngest courageously. “Can’t it wait until we’re back from the library?”
“No. It can’t. Come up front. Right now!”
It was with reluctance that they unfastened their seat belts, and I could read the fear in their eyes as they approached. It wasn’t until I took them in my arms and whispered in their ears: “You are forgiven”, that they finally relaxed. “I am the one who should have the consequence,” I explained. “My behavior was far from ideal. I didn’t act like Jesus would. Will you forgive me as well?”
My tears flowed all the more abundantly as I saw the grins return to my boys’ faces. God turned an ugly scene into an abundant shower of blessings that day. We all learned what grace meant: unmerited love from high above.
Someone once explained to a Christian why he didn’t believe in God: “You see, when I see my daughter approaching a possible danger, I quickly try to grab the menace and take it out of harm’s way. I prefer to suffer the consequences than have my daughter suffer from them…”
Before the atheist could continue the Christian calmly responded: “This is exactly what Jesus did for you by willingly dying on a cross. He preferred to suffer the consequences of sin than see you hurt for eternity.”
That atheist became a believer.
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends…” (John 15:13-14 NIV)
Will we let circumstances control us from now on?