What I learned when I smashed my dad’s car was something that I would later understand about my Father Who Is In Heaven. Here’s the story.
When I was about 13 or so my dad asked me to take the truck up to the garden and get some tators out of the cellar. I got in that old tan GMC, 3 speed on the column hand-me-down, put it in reverse and began to back out and – WHAM! I looked back. What I saw was my dads ’77 Chevy Malibu staggering back and forth like a beaten drunk.
Matter-of-factly, with deliberate confidence, I pulled the truck back up. Turned it off. Walked inside. Said, “Hey dad, you need to come out here and look at your car.” My dad led the way. I followed. We stopped beside the car. Observed in mournful silence. The whole left rear fender was smashed in. I said to my dad, “You should get that fixed. Sorry about that.” My dad grinned and said, better get up to the garden and get them tators. “Yep”- I sez. End of story. I never heard another word from my dad. He didn’t hit me, or cuss me out, or call me names like: “you idiot,” “you moron”, “you stupid boy” – or anything like that. He didn’t spend the next several weeks or months reminding me of how mindless I was to not look behind before I backed up. None of that. Just lesson learned. Move on. Tomorrow is another day. One more thing to do: repair the fender at a body shop that was owned by a friend of my dads.
Now before all you militant disciplinarians out there blow a head-gasket, stick it in neutral and sit for a spell.
I’m for learning financial lessons by paying restitution. I’m for addressing repeated offenses with corresponding increasing severity. I’m for teaching our children to think before they act, respect property, and honor your parents. But I’m also for teaching our children and adults, something a little more about the character of our God.
When you fail, God does not hit, slap, or call you names. When you act before you think, and something gets broken, God does not respond with condescending self-congratulatory smirk: “When I was your age I never would have done something so stupid. And if I did, my pa would have worn me out with a strap.”
So consider the gospel. God sent his son and said, “I’ll pay for your transgressions as if my own son did them himself. I’ll pay for the repair and the damage that you did to my name, my property, my glory – and I alone will make full restitution for what you have broken.”
And consider the implications of the gospel. God does not hold against you and remind you often of your fender-benders. He does not keep ridiculing or shaming you for what you did in the past, whether that was yesterday or ten years ago. God does not keep a tight-fisted mind, holding on to all of your reasons that sent his son to the cross. God does not accuse you of ruining his day. God does not withhold his love just because you hurt him and his fame. God does not feel contempt for you, seek revenge against you, or sponsor pity-parties for himself in your presence. God does not lock you up in an emotional tip-toe dance with him so that every time you come into his presence he loves to see you squirm with fear. God does not make fun of you in front of his friends. God does not compare you down to his other son, saying, “Why can’t you be more like Jesus – he never would do something so dumb.” God does not feel threatened in his own identity just because his children fail. God does not storm off with disgust when you act like you were born yesterday.
Here is what God did and continues to do for me through his Son:
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:10-14)
Thanks dad for showing me something about my heavenly Father! And thanks for not getting too bent out of shape over what is certainly by now, a ton of compressed, melted-down cheap steel divided up somewhere into a thousand paper clips.