Flat Stanley

When my 14-year-old asked me to drive her to school a few days ago, I immediately told her: “No.”

Katie is notorious for dragging herself out of bed so late that she and her sister barely make it to the bus stop in time. This morning was no different and I was not about to rearrange my schedule to ease hers … until I walked downstairs, took one look at the food on the table that would go uneaten, and decided to show a little mercy instead.

“If you make your bed before coming down for breakfast, I’ll drive you to school.”

“Really?” Katie asked, clearly relieved.

The one person who wasn’t happy was Hollie. Having called me a pushover on several occasions for going back on my word, she couldn’t see that holding a grudge is counterproductive to demonstrating God’s grace. Life is full of trade-offs; and sometimes we have to choose between sticking to our guns and standing for others who are unable (or unwilling) to help themselves.

Never was this more clear than in the scene from last week’s episode of The Middle where Axel shut his fingers in a door and needed his brother, Brick, to free them. Axel’s on-screen predicament made me think of the time I accomplished a similar feat while living in Nebraska. I can remember like it was yesterday: The girls were playing in the front yard; Bill was working in the garage; and I had just walked outside to see how everyone was doing. For some reason, the trunk of my car was open and I decided to close it from where I stood on the passenger side of the vehicle. Without thinking about how my right hand would be impacted as it rested on the top of the car’s rear quarter-panel, I awkwardly reached over with my left to push the lid down and felt a bone-crushing pain the second it locked into place.

Feeling a lot like Flat Stanley as I looked at the tiny opening that half of my thumb had disappeared into, I called out to Bill for help. Unlike Brick—who took his time responding to Axel’s cries—my roommate was quick to free me from the grip of my latest mistake.

Whenever I think about what would have happened if he had not been there to pop the trunk, I thank God for saving me from the unbearable pain and possible loss of my thumb.

James 2:13 says that “judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” I used to think that this verse was more about conviction than evangelism; but now I realize that people need love the most when they deserve it the least.  And if we want to have the mind of Christ, we first need to adopt the attitude where those who make their beds don’t have to lie in them because mercy triumphs over judgment every time.

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