Growing up in a Christian home I was very familiar with the words, “God’s grace.” I heard them in songs such as, Amazing Grace, Wonderful Grace of Jesus, Grace Greater than our Sin, and countless others. The words were mentioned on Sunday mornings multiple times. I had read about God’s grace in the Bible. I was able to define grace as being given that which you don’t deserve. I understood that grace was a free gift from God and that it was truly amazing.
A few years ago, however, I was asked, “What does God’s grace look like?” It was a simple question from a child. A question born from a need to know something tangible with which to associate God’s grace. I replied with my standard, “It’s like getting a gift at Christmas that you don’t deserve and didn’t expect.” My answer was met with eyes that glazed over and a change of subject. It bothered me that I had been a Christian my entire life, yet I couldn’t truly explain what the grace of God looked like. In many ways, it really is hard to describe. This simple question continued to bother me until one day, as I was working and thinking of memories I had with my grandpa, I was struck by the thought that, when I was with my grandpa, I had a feeling that I could do no wrong—that I could do nothing that would separate me from his love. I finally had it! Something tangible, imperfect, but tangible!
My grandpa (I’d be remiss to not include my grandma as well, but for the sake of brevity I will just use my grandpa as the example) was the one authority in my life with whom I felt free to be who I was. He was so incredibly patient with me. When I was 10 or 11 he would have me come to his house and he’d teach me how to change the brakes on a car, or the oil, or a headlight. I now know that my presence there made these tasks take far longer than if my grandpa had done them by himself, but he patiently let me learn. I’d accidentally spill oil or brake fluid on the garage floor and it was met with gentle instruction on how to avoid doing that in the future. Not anger.
My grandpa owned a fishing charter boat on Lake Michigan from the time I was 6 until I was 12, and I would spend several weeks a summer with him driving to and from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. We would wake early and go to bed late and I can’t believe he was able to do it without losing his sanity. Even so, my grandpa made me feel so welcome and that my presence made his life easier when the opposite had to be true.
During some of those trips, my grandma, uncle, and a couple of his friends would come along and, if we didn’t have any paying customers, we would fish for fun. On one of those days, my grandpa decided to stay behind with my grandma and I was out on the water with just my uncle and his friends. I was around 11 at the time and was given the task of driving the boat, which I had done quite often. I would drive while we were trolling and my uncle or grandpa would work the lines. On this particular day, we were fishing in a channel that led from Sturgeon Bay to the big waters of Lake Michigan. The channel was about 300 yards wide and would get really shallow as you approached its edges. I was apparently day dreaming and my uncle was trying to a solve problem with one of the lines when the boat went from 25 feet of water to 7 in a flash. I recovered to get the boat into deeper water but not before we lost all our fishing gear. The rocks had ripped the lures and the downrigger balls right off. Fortunately, we had no damage to the boat, but we still lost several hundred dollars worth of gear.
Needless to mention, my uncle was not happy with me. As soon as the boat docked he took me to tell my grandpa what had happened. My grandpa listened to the story, looked at me and asked, “Were you hurt? Are you okay?” I couldn’t reply as I was holding back tears, so I nodded. He smiled and said, “Good. Things we can replace, but YOU we cannot replace!” Wow! That is grace! He could have reminded me of how he told me to pay attention when I was driving the boat and to always be checking the compass and the depth finder, but he didn’t. He reminded me that I was his and irreplaceable! The more time I spent getting to know my grandpa, the more time I wanted to spend with him!
I now have a better, tangible picture of what God’s grace looks like. When I think of God’s grace, my grandpa flashes in my mind’s eye. I then think about this in relation to God and how the more I get to know Him and His son, Jesus, the more I will want to be with Him! As I grow to see how amazing His grace is, I want to be more like Him, not because I feel like I have to, but because I want to! I am so grateful for the example that my grandpa gave me on how to impact grandchildren. It is my hope and prayer that I will one day honor my grandpa by showing my grandchildren what the grace of God looks like.