One of the most profound lessons on God's grace came to me 20 years ago when my oldest daughter was just a little girl. A household calamity produced an "out of the mouths of babes" moment that has stayed with me for a lifetime.
We had just moved to central Texas from the Dallas area. One afternoon we went to the house of my wife's grand parents, Nanny and Pappaw for lunch along with other family members. While the adults talked the kids played around the house.
Suddenly there was a loud crash and sound of shattering glass, followed by the shrieks of a child. We rushed into the living room to find our daughter Danae sobbing beside a table. She had been walking behind two chairs with a table between them, passing between these pieces of furniture and the wall behind them, when she hooked her foot on the cord of the lamp standing on the table, yanking it off the table to crash to the floor. It was one of those Victorian style lamps typical to homes of that generation, all glass with flowers embossed on the shade. Now it lay in shambles on the floor to Danae's utter horror.
And there was wailing and gnashing of teeth.
It was a childish accident so we saw no need for discipline, but while my wife Joi cleaned up the lamp I took a sobbing Danae back to a bed room to calm down by having her lay on the bed for a while. Through tears Danae asked if she was in trouble and I told her no, but that we would have to buy Nanny a new lamp. I left her to calm down, hopefully to nap, and returned to the group.
About 45 minutes later I gently opened the door to the bedroom and peeked in to see if she was sleeping. I couldn't see her face, but she was still and quiet, so I thought she had fallen asleep. But just as I was backing out of the room, in a timid, tiny voice Danae said something that I couldn't make out.
I went to her and sat on the side of the bed and asked her what she had said. She meekly replied, "I can't pay. I'm too little."
It was sweet and vulnerable and I couldn't help but be overwhelmed with love for my sweet daughter at that moment. I gave her a smile and hug and reassured her. "Don't worry sweetheart. Daddy will pay for the broken lamp."
Now I can be pretty dense and slow so the implications of what Danae said didn't settle in with me right away. But a few days later the Lord showed me a lesson from that moment that has stayed with me ever since.
Danae had realized that she was responsible for breaking the lamp, but that she had no way to pay for it. And in that realization she grasped her helplessness and knew that she needed another, her Daddy, to pay for her. A substitutionary price must be paid to set things to right.
Our own sin and brokenness cannot be paid for by us with our puny attempts to make ourselves right. We can't pay. We're too little. But don't worry, our Daddy has paid for our brokenness and the brokenness of this world through His Son's work on the cross.
We may try to assess our lives by how much of a mess we may or may not have created, or think that we "are a good person" and have our lives reasonably together. The degree of messiness in our lives is not the issue. We are still broken. Some of us may be better at cleaning up the pieces, be better at "sin management", but all of us are broken because we are alienated from God by the separation from Him permeating our very nature. We are a study in dualism: made in God's image, but separated from Him by the fall of humanity from the very start of the human race.
In moments of candid lucidity we realize that we cannot possibly "pay" for our brokenness. We are too little. But our loving Daddy has already seen to it. He made the very costly payment for our sin and brokenness at the cross of Christ, His Son. And so in our vulnerable timidity, as we meekly admit our weakness and our need for Him and what He has done for us, He wipes our tears, quells our quaking hearts by holding us close to His, and reassures us: the debt is paid, "It is finished."
With those words all is restored and we are free from the guilt, free from obligation for a debt we could never pay, free to rejoice in the Father's unconditional and boundless love. We are free indeed.