When I was growing up, I was very protective and possessive about “my stuff”, especially new stuff. Things I bought or that I received as gifts were usually off-limits to my brothers until I had a chance to play with them or use them first. After all, they might scratch it or dent it or, worst of all, BREAK it! If ANY of the above happened during their time using my stuff, of course they were obligated to replace it.
Now that I’m older, I’ve softened a little and enjoy sharing my stuff with my kids. If it gets damaged, I have an opportunity to model grace for them, hoping that they’ll pick up on that and do the same for their siblings, because somehow, they seem to act the same way toward their stuff as I did when I was a kid (funny how that works like that). Similarly, I enjoy making or building things and sharing them with others for them to enjoy. Whether it’s a tree house or a California roll, I enjoy seeing and hearing the enjoyment of others as they experience something I’ve made for them.
Now, imagine building a house for your son and his wife. It is a huge house on a huge private lot, in a secluded tropical paradise. It has all the amenities and accessories you can imagine, the latest state-of-the-art technology. It has a private cove for fishing and snorkeling. Probably a helipad. And you show up one day to check in on the kids. You walk up to the front door and it’s ajar. You step inside and hear… silence. You call out to them and there is no response. And as you walk in, you notice graffiti on the walls, and stains on the carpets, and cracks in some of the windows…. Finally, your son pokes his head out and admits they had a raging party that some local persuaded them to have. It’s devastating… and disappointing… and crushing.
In Genesis 3, I imagine God had to have some of those same feelings as He learned that Adam and Eve had “vandalized” his perfect garden that he had given to them. He trusted them completely and entrusted His new, shiny stuff to them… and they trashed it. And, of course, we all know what happened after that with the consequences: the serpent gets cursed, the pains of childbirth are cursed, and work is cursed. But I had a new thought the other day as I was working through this with TmwG (This Morning With God), and that was one of how God displayed his grace. I mean, instead of just spanking them, he COULD have REALLY punished them. He COULD have turned them into serpents. He COULD have made them sterile and so that they couldn’t produce any offspring. And he COULD have wiped them off the face of the earth and started over. But instead, he reprimanded them, gave them their discipline, and let life continue on its course. In other words, he dispensed grace.
Some would argue that he was merciful instead. And I would agree. But I’ve always thought of mercy and grace as being two sides of the same coin. Some simple definitions of each that have always stuck with me are that mercy is “not getting something you deserve”, where grace is “getting something you don’t deserve”. Based on their actions and disobedience, Adam and Eve deserved death. Instead, they got mercy. Which, in turn, was a gift of grace, because they didn’t even deserve mercy. Father God, help me to dispense grace when my stuff is tarnished or ruined, and when my plans and/or instructions are disregarded.