Looking through the front window, the young man worried over what his father would say when he arrived home. This had been the third time that he had gotten into an accident in his fathers car, and he could not imagine that his father was well pleased. Father had been kind and forgiving the first two times, but this time the young man was sure that his father would be upset. He expected anger.
He considered how he might have changed the circumstances; paying more attention, not driving today and having a friend drive instead, not going at all. It was no use, he couldn’t change the past, but he knew his father could no longer hold back the anger must be coming.
He continued to fret, worry, and watch out the window. His father had to be home soon, but he couldn’t face him. Pacing the living room having not calmed his nerves at all, the young man decided to head to his bedroom and lay down. “Father will arrive when he arrives,” the young man thought wryly, “pacing won’t change that.”
After laying down in his bed, he waited. It seemed like hours, but it could have been minutes for all the young man knew, he wasn’t paying attention to the time, waiting until his father came to bite off his head. He only knew that he waited in fear and uncertainty of the future, yet certain his father would finally give him the what for. “Third time is the charm, as they say. Normally that’s a good thing, funny how for me it’s terrible.”
He heard the sound of the garage, of his father parking another new car, getting out and walking into the house. It was time, he knew, to face his maker. He had worried so much before his father had returned that it surprised him how calm he felt about it all. His father’s voice carried through the house, calling to him, asking him to come to the kitchen.
The young man hurried downstairs, he hurried doing most things, honestly. It led to mistakes but he could not contain his excitement most of the time. He had so much energy that he simply had to do things. He couldn’t help if sometimes that meant he didn’t do a good job, or wrecked a car. Taking the stairs two at a time and bounding around the corner, he reached his father in mere moments. Looking up at his father’s face, he waited for the dressing down he knew he deserved.
“How are you feeling, my son?” His father asked him, walking over to put a hand on the young man’s shoulder. “Are you OK?”
“Yes,” the young man said hurriedly, “I’m fine. How did it go?”
“Splendidly! Come and see the new car!” His father’s reply did nothing to assuage the fear within the young man. As his father led him to the garage, where a shining new car sat, a deep blue colored sedan with all the bells and whistles, he knew his father was only biding time. Surely, soon, he had to loose his temper. He simply had to. This was the third time this had happened!
“My son,” his father began, and the young man began to feel fear well up in the base of his belly, a knot forming and twisting until he felt it was so tight he might break. “My son.” He said again, looking at the young man with a face soft, the face he had always known in his father, not a face of anger but a face of love.
“You certainly did a number on the old car!” he said, laughing, “luckily it had great safety features, and you are all right. This car has even more! Side airbags, parking assist, and warnings when you leave the lane or drive too closely, or if someone follows too closely. I knew I needed that because I want to know you are safe. It would destroy me if anything happened to you, my son.”
The young man stood there, dumbfounded, as his father continued.
“We will have to go out together tomorrow to continue working on your driving skills, I’m sure you will be a great driver with practice! And, we can’t control everything in life. Sometimes accidents happen, and all I can be thankful for is that you are still here, still well, still alive.”
Somehow, for the young man, he had thought his father had a reserve of anger that would eventually come up, he didn’t realize his patience was so great. It must only be that the next time he wrecks a car that his father will loose his temper.
“Your mother and I are so proud of you, my son. We love you and want the best for you. We want you to know how loved you are, that no matter what, you are loved. All of the things in life are not as important as you are.”
So often, we believe that God will be upset with us for mistakes we make. That somehow what we do is more important to God than who we are. We believe this because we have been taught this. Even reading the story above, you may have been surprised that the young man was on his third accident, with the father forgiving even the first. I remember the first accident I had, my parents were very upset, and I was to blame. It seems natural and normal for us to consider fault when accidents happen, or when mistakes are made.
God does not act like our parents, and it’s more accurate to say that our parents do not act like God. It’s not their fault, they can’t live up to that, but they still fall short in that comparison. Where our parents and those around us will blame us for things we do, God is more concerned with who we are, and specifically that we are his sons and daughters. Sure, he wants us to not wreck the car, but he isn’t going to punish us with fear or anger, he spent all his anger on the cross. All he has left for us is love, even in correction.
The young man’s father took responsibility for continuing to teach the young man to drive, and this is how God behaves towards us. He lovingly continues with us until we “get it”, and even then he continues still, simply because he loves being with us. Too often we see God as distant when we are “bad”, instead of realizing that he is near in all things, again, simply because he loves being with us.
He isn’t expecting us to be perfect, the father knew the young man was not perfect, and in my mind this is because the father knew his own shortcomings. The father was aware of his reckless nature during his teenage years, or that he rushed his son to get a driving license without helping him best learn to drive in safety and care. Knowing his own shortcomings, the father extends love and grace to his son, caring more for the son’s being than his action.
God is so much more concerned with who we are than what we do. Many times, who we are is hurt and afraid, fearing our heavenly Father and mistrusting him. We see God as strict, as a disciplinarian, as upset or angry, yet we do not see how he sees our hurt, pain, and brokenness and loves us. He is looking into our souls and knowing why we do what we do far more than we know why we do what we do, and for that reason he forgives freely because he is binding up wounds not correcting actions.
We really get it wrong when we think we have to do certain things as Christians, Jesus came to mend and heal, “Those who are well have no need for a physician,” he said. The interesting thing is that no one is well. We are all hurt, all broken, all needing healing and redemption. It amazes God that we, like the Pharisees, focus so much on actions and not on God’s healing touch.
His resources are unlimited, his patience is unlimited, his love is unlimited. Our heavenly Father does not run out of what he needs to love us. He comes home with another new chance, and invites us back into learning and growing and being healed in him.
I’d like to think the father in the story is far more concerned with the young man’s view of his father than of how well that young man drives. God cares that we see him accurately, do we see him as loving, kind, caring, and patient with us? Do we recognize he is binding wounds, not correcting action? Do we go to him knowing that he will give us healing and grace for our hurts?