As usual, I was running a bit late taking my kids to school during my carpool days. I always had specific instructions not to be late. But of course, I always was.
On this particular day my daughter, Abby, who was thirteen at the time, seemed relatively unfazed by our tardiness. Besides, she had me to blame. My youngest son, David, however, who was ten, believes if he’s not five minutes early, he’s late. So while Abby and I were relaxed in the front seats, David was stewing in the back.
By the time we got near the school, the line of traffic was backed up for several blocks. “See!” David said exasperated, reminding me why Mom said to leave the house early. We were inching along when we came to a side road that would enable us to circumvent an entire block or two of traffic. “Turn here, Daddy,” Abby said. Immediately behind her, however, David, yelled, “No! Mom said you can’t turn there because of the sign.”
The sign in question simply read, “No thru traffic. Residents only.” I paused for a moment considering the various interpretations of the word, “resident.” Recognizing my hesitation, Abby began excitedly yelling, “Turn, Daddy, turn!” while David in the back seat yelled in horror, “No, Daddy, no!” I felt like Pinocchio with two opposing Jiminy Crickets.
I turned, of course.
I well understand why Oscar Wilde famously said, “I can resist anything except temptation.” For a moment I was thrilled with my decision feeling certain I would circumvent dozens of cars and perhaps even get to school on time.
That’s when I saw the flashing lights.
“See!” David yelled out in anguish, clearly miserable with the foolishness of his father. Abby and I looked at each other with big wide eyes. Then we turned around and looked at David in the back seat. He was so visibly angry and upset, he looked as if someone ate his bowl of ice cream, left his baseball glove out in the rain, and canceled P.E. for the rest of the year. And for some reason, this sight caused Abby and me to explode into fits of laughter.
About this time the officer reached our car and asked, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” speaking loudly to overcome our loud laughter snorts. “Of course I do,” I said trying to compose myself. “You saw the sign?” the policeman asked, apparently not accustomed to people being happy about getting a ticket. “I most certainly did,” I answered, “but I turned anyway…because she made me” I exclaimed, pointing at my daughter who was wiping tears from her cheeks. “But my son told me not to,” I continued, “and now he’s so mad we could fry and egg on his forehead.”
The officer peered into the back seat and saw the steam rising from David’s ears. “Oh my,” he said, a bit perplexed with the stark differences emanating from the front and back seats.
Then the officer did the most unexpected thing. He scratched his head, peered back in the car, and then smiled. “I can’t give someone a ticket who’s in such a good mood,” he said. “Besides, looks like you have enough trouble in the back seat.” With that he asked me to not turn there again and wished us a good day.
By definition, grace is “kindness we don’t deserve,” and I certainly received some from the police officer that day. But grace has far deeper and grandeur meaning. Christians define grace as “God’s unmerited favor.” The Bible describes grace as a gift we do not deserve, but one God gives us anyway. Church hymnbooks are filled with songs expressing the wonder of God’s amazing grace. The full impact is expressed in this succinct Bible verse, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
Grace is a beautiful thing. Receiving it from others will make your day. Receiving it from God, however, will make your eternity.