Fathers and Grace

I remember the day my father apologized to me. It was probably about ten years ago now. He and I had both been working hard at our relationship that was hard to work. It had been that way for a long, long time. Through the years, we kept on keeping on with the gritty task of restoring a relationship that had been broken. Lots of dinners and lunches out with slow conversations as we struggled to acquaint ourselves with each other. I say acquaint because although there had been no real lapse in our relationship time-wise, we had ceased knowing each other in the way you cease knowing someone when you hold on too long to an idea of who that person is that doesn’t fit them anymore. So to say that Dad and I were getting reacquainted doesn’t quite fit because neither of us were at all who we once had been. At some point during those difficult years between he and I, I had grown from a girl into a woman and he had become an entirely different type of man. During those long, hard years Dad had changed into the type of man who would look over at his grown daughter as he stood by her side and say, “Summy, I’m so sorry about all that.”

Such a simple apology. Such a sufficient apology.

He and I had been talking about life when the apology came. I was newly engaged at the time and he had travelled this road before me. So Dad started talking to me about life in general:  how it tosses and turns and goes in directions you never could have guessed.  And he talked to me also about his life specifically: mistakes he had made, lessons he had learned that he never wanted me to have to learn “the hard way, like I did,” Dad said to me.

You see, in the years between when I was born and when I grew into an adult my father had had the audacity to make mistakes – as a husband to my mom and as a father to us four kids. He was a fallen man in a fallen world and as is prone to happen under those circumstances he floundered and fell and failed. And when fallen people are in relationships with each other they hurt each other and disappoint each other and fall short of the other’s expectations. And he did.

Learning to receive and give grace in the life of a family.

As I grew in years I learned “the hard way” that this wasn’t just a “my dad” thing, but a people thing. I learned this lesson as I became that person. The one with the audacity to make mistakes. The one who floundered and fell and failed. I hurt people, I disappointed people and I fell short of their expectations. And in those ugly meses that I created, came the most beautiful lesson that I have yet to learn.

I learned that I was the one who desperately needed grace.

That lesson was a game-changer for me because until you need grace, you will never give it. I had fiercely withheld giving out grace and forgiveness to others in some self-serving way as if giving it away would leave me with none for myself. But that’s not the way it works.

Ours is a God of Grace. 

The more you are in need of it, the more of it He gives, the more freely you can extend it to others. As Christians this is the line we toe. God set the standard of forgiveness and as Christ followers his standard now becomes ours. It is impossible for you to comprehend how needful you are of grace and at the same time withhold giving grace to others.  We forgive as we have been forgiven.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgivingone another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:12-14

By the time my Dad apologized to me that day, I didn’t really need to hear the words, though I was grateful for them. Dad had been doing the tough work of reconciliation for a long time by that point and it hadn’t gone unnoticed. Forgiveness between us occurred not in one fell swoop, but in small steps and increments as I grew in the assurance that it was by God’s grace alone that I had been saved, so how could I not extend that life-saving grace to another?

Early tomorrow morning, I’m going to meet my dad for breakfast, thankful that now – many years after those tough years – we can sit comfortably in each other’s presence now that the both of us know something of God’s good grace.  Maybe there’s a father in your life in need of the gift of grace this Father’s Day.  Maybe you are just the person to extend it.

*Originally published June 14, 2014 on earlymorningmama.com


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