© 2015 Lynn Abbott
To this day, I don’t know who started the trouble. It could have been either Peter or Bobby.
Personally, I suspect it was Peter… After all, I had not included him in my creative project. My mistrust, therefore, is well-founded.
Thus, at the beginning of my low tech, movie theater production, the boys began to improvise.
“Yahoo,” one called.
“Bravo!” another hollered.
“Encore,” snorted Bobby as the reel-to-reel audio began to roll.
As I tried to negotiate myself through all the rudimentary technology that I had contrived for the production, popcorn began to sprinkle. It wasn’t long before the gentle pop, pop developed into a torrential downpour.
I worked magic that day. But it wasn’t a cinematic “happily ever after.”
I scuttled attempting to avoid the fluffy white stuff when suddenly we lost all sound. I fidgeted with my father’s reel-to-reel.
No sound could be heard, except for the persistent pop of corn raining on my parade.
Horrified by the damage to my father’s reel-to-reel, I emerged from behind the set like Linus’ much anticipated, Great Pumpkin in the proverbial Peanuts’ patch.
However, I did not intend to bestow pleasant gifts upon all the boys of the Woodstock world.
They turned, and fled. But my fury propelled me, and I clipped their heels.
Yup, I worked magic that day. But it wasn’t a cinematic “happily ever after.”
It was over three weeks before the boys dared to tread the sidewalk on the right of Woodstock Lane.
Without a doubt, my marketplace venture had failed. Yet, I took great satisfaction in knowing that I had taught those boys a lesson.
Yes, I was zealous on behalf of my father. Rules were rules. Right was right.
Indeed. I can’t help but giggle at the irony that is my life…
Given my childhood’s pattern, it’s amazing that I now write about God’s grace. That in itself is an example of Abba’s great mercy… And His sense of humor.
I can’t help but giggle at the irony that is my life…
Over time, that child who once insisted that the other children on the playground follow the rules to the letter of the law learned that she repeatedly failed to keep the law perfectly.
And yes, I have long regretted the hurt I caused in my youth due to my overzealous, outspoken sincerity; yet, I find comfort in knowing that the apostle Paul tread a similar path.
Paul, or Saul as he was called at the time, had “rule making and following” down pat.
Educated as a Pharisee, he passionately persecuted the fledgling church. No one doubted his sincerity or his zeal for Judaism. His religion was iron-clad.
And on the Damascus road, Saul suddenly encountered the incarnate God. The young Pharisee discovered firsthand that rules were a poor substitute for a relationship with God Himself.
Although Christ asked Saul, “Why are you persecuting me?” Saul’s conversion revolved not around what Saul had done but rather upon the identity of Christ.
“Who art Thou, Lord?” Saul asked.
You see, Saul did not understand the ramifications of his actions. He didn’t know the one he persecuted. He simply enforced laws; he had never personally encountered the Living God.
Of course, Saul thought he served God. He followed a list of rules and demanded that others do the same.
Thus, Saul attempted to establish a relationship with God. He likely felt he could win Yahweh’s favor by persecuting Christ followers.
Interestingly enough, although Christ corrected Saul’s ignorant yet sincere assumptions, the Savior didn’t scold or punish.
Nor did Saul die on the spot in retribution for Stephen’s stoning. Although Saul trampled on others, he himself received grace.
On the Damascus road, Saul met the Grace Giver.
Although Jesus briefly mentioned Saul’s persecution of the church, Christ didn’t dwell on it. Jesus recognized Saul’s erroneous understanding and sin, but that was not the focus of the Damascus road interview.
Instead, our Savior told Saul to rise and go to Damascus to await further instruction. Grace fully understood the wrong; yet, grace chose to forgive and then, to give.
Without a doubt, that’s undeserved favor.
In fact, Abba not only forgave Saul, but gave the zealot a new name, identity and purpose.
You see grace goes beyond all that we could ask or imagine. Because of what Christ has done, God sees us in light of who we will become rather than in the shadow of wrongs we’ve committed.
Through Christ, our redeemed and renewed relationship with Yahweh trumps the violated rules.
In fact, Abba sent Saul a valuable object lesson through a disciple named Ananias. Of course, when the Lord first told Ananias to visit Saul, Ananias balked, (Acts 9:13-14).
However, God answered Ananias’ doubts, “‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine…” And Ananias obeyed and forgave his enemy.
Yup. Grace showed up in a big way.
For the remainder of his life, Saul championed God’s grace in the marketplace.
Was Paul still zealous for his heavenly Father? You betcha.
Did he speak the truth about humanity’s rebellion and need for God? Most certainly.
Grace fully understood the wrong; yet, grace chose to forgive and then, to give.
But Paul spoke gently and humbly. The Holy Spirit had transformed the once hardened legalist into an ambassador of the gospel of Christ.
And Paul wrote, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person,” (I Thessalonians 4:6).
In the book of Titus, the former legalist wrote “showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves… but when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy…”
And Abba used Paul’s testimony to transform lives.
Grace like rain. In the marketplace.
Sign me up. I want to be a part of that. After all, it was by God’s grace, through faith, that my life transformed.
And if those neighborhood boys could see me now, I’m sure they would agree that I’m so much better for it.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law,” Galatians 5:22