I once read about a young college student who burnt out the engine of her dad’s car. It was the end of the semester break, and she was going to head back on the coach, a 5 hours journey with a lot of stops along the way.
Amy had been given a lot of Christmas gifts, which included a laptop, a printer, and some exercise equipment. Her dad rather than have her deal with the entire luggage decided to lend her his car as he could use her mothers.
He told her that she could leave it back in a few weeks. Amy was overjoyed; it felt like he had given her another present. The trip back took less than half the time and was so much more comfortable. Amy made sure to park in a safe place, planning not to use it until driving back at the end of the month.
Now and then she would take short trips to the mall and back. Pretty soon, she was taking her friends for shopping trips and nights out to nearby cities.
Then her best friend needed a lift home, which was over a two-hour drive. On the way back she noticed a red light flashing on the dashboard but as her dad took such good care of the car, she didn’t think it was anything serious.
Just to be on the safe side, she didn’t drive it again until heading home. Just after setting off, Amy noticed smoke coming out of the hood and decided to get off the motorway and find a garage. Next came a few loud sputters, and then the engine died.
When the tow truck driver arrived, it didn’t take him very long to figure out the problem. The red light on the dash was the oil indicator. Amy had neglected to check the light; now the engine was beyond repair.
A few hours later, her dad arrived at the garage where the car had been towed. Amy was terrified. She had abused her privilege and ignored a simple warning. There was no excuse for her mistake as she had been told on many occasion to ring if anything unusual happened to the car.
She knew he would be furious and there was no defence for her behaviour.
Amy told her father how sorry she was for her carelessness, but he just told her to sit in the car while he assessed the damage. After learning that the car was worthless, Amy’s dad arranged for the garage to dispose of it.
Now it was time for Amy to face his wrath.
As they drove away from the trashed car, her father asked Amy, “where is the best restaurant in town?” That was the last thing that she was expecting to hear, but she directed him to it.
As they sat at the table looking at the menu, Amy couldn’t even think about food. Fortunately, her father ordered for both of them: boiled trout almondine. They sat in silence while they waited for their food, every minute felt like an hour.
When the trout arrived, Amy’s father said to her, “Now I am going to teach you a lesson you will never forget.” She knew she deserved whatever she got. Would he make her pay for a whole new car? That would take forever and mean cancelling her summer plans. Maybe he would just tell her how much of a disappointment she was. In some ways that would be a worse, knowing she didn’t live up to his expectations.
Her mind was racing about what was going to come next.
Then he took the knife and fork in his hand and said, “I’m going to teach you how to remove the skeleton from cooked trout.” Not a word was said about the car at the meal— or ever.
Amy’s dad was probably furious about the car, who wouldn’t be? But he knew that she had learned her lesson without a telling off from him.
Amy lived well into her sixties but never forgot her father’s act of forgiveness. His grace made a more significant impact on her than any punishment ever would have.
This story symbolizes Gods level of forgiveness. Whenever we ask for forgiveness, we are forgiven. All we need to do is believe it. Ask and receive that your joy may be full. (John 16:24)
Just as God forgives us, we also need to show that forgiveness to others. Many times people hurt us and we do not forgive them as our minds are clouded with anger.
It would be very hard not to say; ‘how could you be so stupid not to check the oil, everyone knows a red light means danger— alert— stop.’
But if we take this approach, relationships can be damaged. When we are angry we can say and do things we can regret; comments can be made that can not be taken back.
When a person is genuinely sorry, sometimes the best approach is just to do what Amy’s father did and say nothing.
This is not easy to do by any means, but when a person is expecting you to go off the handle and you don’t, your act of grace can have a more profound impact than any telling off could.
Have a good week.
Rev J Martin