I’ve been reading a book that a pastor gave us before we left. He told us that this book, and the study of mercy and grace, had shaped much of his view on life. The book made it down to Mexico in one piece, and I recently cracked it open. I have been mulling over questions such as ‘What is grace? What is mercy? What is the difference?’
As seems to be the way things go in my life, I stumbled headfirst into a field trip about mercy and grace this morning. So long book, hello life.
On the way to meet our spanish teacher, I was pulled over by a policeman. I know that shocks you, that this could happen to someone like me.
It seems (what?) that I took a wrong turn (wrong?) down a one way street (one way?). Don’t laugh, but this was my second infraction, and yes, of the same category. Not on the same street lest you think to yourself: once wrong, twice foolish. The last time this happened I was one block away from our church, so an entirely different crime scene.
As they usually do, the policeman asked for my license and insurance. Next, he pulled out a rule book and proceeded to use some verbs I haven’t learned in Spanish class. We haven’t yet covered criminal behaviour, and I am still working on past tense verb conjugation which is an important part of understanding a crime scene. The conversation went something like this (translated to english for your convenience, with sound and visual effects):
Officer : “Something something something” (serious)
Darcy : “Si?” (curious, unsure, anticipative)
Officer : “Something something you drove down a street the wrong way something something” (serious)
Darcy : “I am sorry. I do not know. One way road. Excuse me. Canadian.” (using apologetic tone and facial expression of self condemnation for criminal activity, longing for additional vocabulary of apology)
Officer : “Something something infraction something” (serious)
Darcy : “Yes sir, an infraction. Infraction? Yes?” (serious)
Officer : “Something something something 15 days plus verb I don’t understand plus something something something ” (even more serious)
Ok, at this point I just heard 15 days. Is he telling me I have to make tacos at his aunt’s cocina economica for 15 days to pay my dues? Or do I have to do 15 days of road work on the pereferico with a pick ax? 15 days of campaign duty for the underdog political party? Or 15 days in the pen? Will this be maximum or minimum security, I wondered.
I’m thinking, no matter what, this is going to inconvenience a bunch of people. There will definitely be bad press for C-Quest, not to mention the disgrace to the family name. How will I get to Home Depot with Pastor Miguel and Alecia tomorrow to buy a toilet and a door frame? Where will the kids find food? Will I have wifi in jail? What will Kary say? Will my Spanish improve through this experience?
Next, I think, estoy tranquilo. I am calm. It will be okay. God is with me. I just blogged about green toilets. I have perspective on life. My life here is only temporary. Prison could do me some good. There are many Christians who have found much peace and closeness to God by serving time. This could be my chance.
Then I got more practical, less spiritual. I remembered, the last time this happened I only had to pay a small fine on the spot and ask the policeman if he wanted to come with us to church. (This is part of another story but suffice to say there was a misunderstanding. Rachel gave me a lot of grief after I paid my fine and proceeded to invite him to church. He looked a little surprised I guess. I was sure he said something like “I would like to come with you.” “MOM. HE WAS NOT ASKING TO COME TO CHURCH. HE WAS MAKING SURE YOU WERE NOT GOING TO DRIVE DOWN A ONE WAY AGAIN ON OUR WAY TO CHURCH. HE THINKS YOU MIGHT DO IT AGAIN. SO EMBARRASSING.”)
Now back to the main story.
I waited, holding my breath, ready to receive my sentence and pay the penalty of my sin.
The officer took one more look at my license and then at me, and then he said :
I deserved wrath. I got adelante.
Is that mercy? Or is that grace? You decide.
Thank you Mister Policeman.
“Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines him to bestow benefits on the undeserving.” – A. W. Tozer
“(Grace is) the unmerited operation of God in the heart of man, effected through the agency of the Holy Spirit.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Mercy is not receiving something that we deserve, and grace is receiving something that we don’t deserve.” – Steve McVey, Grace Rules
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. ” Luke 6:27-36