“NO!” Grace screams in defiance when I call her to clean up.
“That’s another ticket.” I say. I hang her fifth ticket of the day for inappropriate behavior. “This is your fifth ticket. That means you have to spend the rest of the day in your room.”
She explodes in anger. “NO! Take those tickets away right now!” she demands.
“I’m sorry, but you have not behaved well today. You will get a fresh start tomorrow.”
“BUT I WANNA BEHAVE!” she wails. “I want to fresh out NOW!” And she melts down into tears as I escort her to her room.
Each day Grace starts the day “fresh.” She has a margin of error for inappropriate behavior established with 5 tickets. After each display of inappropriate behavior she gets a ticket. After 3 tickets she loses electronics. After 5 she spends the rest of the day in her room. Some days she does well and gets no tickets. Some days she gets 5 tickets before we have finished breakfast. Either way, she knows that the next morning she has a fresh start, or as she says: “I get to fresh out!” If we have forgotten to take down tickets from the previous day she will remind us: “Mama, Daddy— it’s fresh out now!” And we pull the tickets down to signify her new beginning.
This discipline practice has worked well for us. (If you are interested in it look at John Rosemond’s book: The Well Behaved Child.) But the purpose of Life with Grace is not about parenting advice, it is about our relationship with our Father in Heaven, and I have to admit this incident with Grace struck an immediate cord with me when she wailed: “BUT I WANNA to behave! I want to fresh out NOW!”
How many times have I knelt before the Lord with a broken and contrite heart for the commission of the same sin —– again? We can all identify with the Apostle Paul when he says:
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.
(Romans 7: 18-19)
As I think about this on an adult level I identify with Paul— the desperation and frustration of battling against my sinful nature. But in truth aren’t we all really just like Gracie in those moments before the Father— crying out in earnestness: “But I WANNA to behave! Could we just start fresh?”
Each day Gracie looks forward to “fresh out” where she begins anew, the slate wiped clean, the transgressions of yesterday forgotten. In a sense I believe part of the success of this program lies there. The fresh beginning of each day imparts a sense of hope and love, and thus a motivation to do better today. I wonder how many of us in our Christian walk realize that same truth applies to us in a much more radical way?
When you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior, do you realize from that moment you are “Fresh out?”
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans8:1)
As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)
You have forgiven the iniquity of your people; You have covered all their sin. (Psalm 85:2)
I do not think we grasp the extravagant reality of this truth. Mainly we accept the theological concept that once we accept Jesus we are “saved and forgiven.” But do we fully internalize the extent of that? Of what it cost God to set us “fresh out” for eternity? When that gift is extended and we accept it, when we day by day begin to internalize in our hearts what it really cost God to make us “fresh out” that has the power to melt our hearts… and then we are moved to change.
Imagine this scene….
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:3-11)
This moment of Jesus’ ministry is a mini-example of the larger intervention he made at the cross. It illustrates how we are all freely forgiven. The adulteress was not asking for forgiveness. She had not yet repented, not even said a word. It is Jesus who moved on her behalf. Jesus literally saved her life from a judgment stoning. Then it was He who reached out first: “Then neither Do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin.”
What a radical moment. Do we think that this woman did not realize the magnitude of this moment? That she was radically rescued form the literal crushing death of condemnation? Do we believe that she was not filled with love and gratitude? Did she not see she was being given a new beginning? Do we believe she wouldn’t have clung to the opportunity to completely change her direction in life exactly as Jesus offered?
Why do we not realize the price Christ paid on the cross was infinitely greater than his stepping between the woman and the stone throwers? On the cross he did not just step between us and the stone throwers… he allowed all the stones to be hurled and cast onto Him. He took each crushing blow. And so I ask— how can we look at that and NOT be motivated like the adulteress to “Go and leave our lives of sin?”
When I think of this Easter Season I cannot ignore the price He paid, and the victory I get to take part in when the stone was rolled away from His tomb. He makes all things new… Including me. Including you. Let’s take this big idea and think of it like Gracie. Each day she looks forward to her fresh beginning. Each day that motivates her to know the condemnations of yesterday no longer hold over her. Each new day she is inspired to do better. But she is a child, and so she does stumble. She is in the process of growing and maturing, but no matter what, she knows that every day she begins “fresh out.” And that is not unlike us. Only we are “fresh out” for eternity. What a radical moment. What radical love.
“No other God can save in this way.”