What is grace? One definition is: the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. Some people say that grace is getting what we do not deserve (while mercy is not getting what we do deserve).
Some time ago, I heard a story about a young girl that I made a point to remember because it is such a fine example of grace. I call it....
A Story of Grace
There was a young, teenage girl up in Traveler's Park who was having a big fight with her father one night. She stormed into her room and slammed the door in her father's face shouting, "I HATE YOU!"
The father was heartbroken but did not know what to do and decided to leave her alone and give her a chance to calm down.
Inside her bedroom, the girl took action on a plan that she had rehearsed many times over. She took a bag out from under her bed that was already packed, sneaked out of the first story bedroom window, and ran away.
The girl was trying to decide where to go, and she tried to think of a place where her parents would not look for her. She remembered people always saying how dangerous Detroit was and thought that that might be a good place to go. Her parents would never think to look for her there since it was not the kind of place where a young girl should be going alone. Florida, California, sure, they might think to look in places like that, but not Detroit.
When the girl got to Detroit, she did not know anybody and was not sure what to do. She was standing on the sidewalk when a man pulled up in the biggest car she had ever seen. He was such a nice man, and when he found out her situation, he put her up in a hotel and got her something to eat "just to help her out." This nice man even gave her some pills to help her feel better.
After a few days at the hotel, the girl was thinking that this was great. Her parents must have been lying to her because her life had never been better than it was then. She was staying in a fancy hotel. She got to order whatever she wanted from room service whenever she wanted, and if she needed anything, that nice man took care of it for her.
After a while, the man started teaching the girl things. After all, she was a woman on her own now, and she would need to know what kinds of things men liked.
The girl was making her own money, and things were going great -- until one day when she was eating a bowl of cereal and saw her picture on the back of a milk carton with the caption, "Have you seen this child?" over it. She quickly dismissed it, though, because she did not need her parents. They had lied to her anyway.
As time went on, the girl worked more and more. After all, people paid a premium for young girls. Over time, though, she was becoming run down and less and less appealing. Then she got sick, and that nice man became very mean. She could not believe how mean he was. If she was not working, then she had to leave.
Out on the street, in the cold, the girl, with no money in her pockets, realized that she had nowhere to go. As she was sitting on a grate with her knees folded up to her chin, trying to keep warm under the newspaper that she had put over her jacket, the girl realized that this place was scary and that she did not want to be out here alone.
She thought about her home back in Traveler's Park with her big dog running through the yard playing. Her stomach growled. She was hungry. It was then that she realized that her dog back home was eating better than she was. She wanted to go home. Could she go home, though? By now her parents may have written her off for dead.
The girl went to the bus station and finally convinced herself to phone her parents. She got the answering machine, and she hung up. Then she tried again and got the answering machine, but she could not leave a message. Finally, on the third try, she mustered up enough courage to leave a message. "Dad? Mom? It's me. I want to come home. I am going to get on a bus that will arrive in town at about midnight tonight. If you want me back, then you can meet me there. If you are not there, then I will know that you do not want me anymore, and I will just get back on the bus."
Then the girl got on the bus and prepared herself for the seven hour drive back to Traveler's Park.
As she was riding the bus, she watched the sun go down and the sky turn dark. After a while, she started thinking that maybe she should not have left that message. Maybe her parents were on vacation and would not even get the message. Even if they did, would they come? Would they still love her? Would they even recognize her now with her bleached hair and body piercings?
She rehearsed what she would say to her father when she saw him. She would tell him how sorry she was, and that she didn't mean it, and a whole bunch of other things.
It was getting late. She looked out the window. It seemed pitch black. She had forgotten how dark it gets out here in the country at night. Then she saw the bus station up ahead. Would they be there? She took a compact out of her purse and tried to straighten her hair and wipe the lipstick off of her teeth.
The bus driver's voice came cracking over the loudspeaker, "This is Traveler's Park, and we will be here for fifteen minutes. That is it, Folks. Fifteen minutes."
The girl did not know what to expect. She slowly climbed down the bus stairs and went into the bus station. She stopped in her tracks. She did not know what to think. Not only did her parents actually show up to wait for her, but they brought her brothers, her aunts and uncles, her cousins, friends -- even Grandma was there!
After she caught her breath, she went right over to her father and started the speech that she had been rehearsing for hours. "Daddy, I am so sorry! I just-"
"Now, now, we do not have time for that. You are late for the party." It was only then that she saw, up on the wall, a big banner that someone had made on the computer that said, WELCOME HOME!
Wow. If you got misty-eyed toward the end there, then you may appreciate the power of that girl's story. True love. Unconditional love. The kind of love where no matter what you do, in the end, it does not matter...you are still wanted and loved. That is the kind of love that was shown to the girl by her father and family, and THAT is the kind of love that we are offered by our Heavenly Father.
Do you know people who hold things that you have done against you? Do you know people who only want to be around you when times are good? Do you know people who get angry and do not seem to get over it? Do you know people who only want you in their life if you are what they want you to be? Can you imagine having someone in your life who is none of those things?
I am going to stop now, and I would like to invite any Christian friends to add some additional thoughts here.
If you are reading my blog and are not a Christian, then I invite you to ask any questions that you may have about God, grace, and how to find unconditional love and acceptance.