When Grace Trumps Justice

With it being a new year, I’ve done as most of you have done and reflected on what I want to change and resolve to do better in 2012. I am in the middle of reading the book, Forgiving and Reconciling by Everett Worthington and it is challenging me on my view and practice of not just forgiveness, but also of grace.
The author has the reader write out answers to several questions and one is, “Think of three people who showed forgiveness to you,” because understanding how it feels to be forgiven is part of what is necessary to offer forgiveness.
Here’s the first story that came to my mind:
Back when I was in third grade, I told my mom an elaborate story about going on a field trip to the local middle school. I also told her that my class had a big snowball fight outside the middle school and that my teacher even got a snowball thrown at her ear, which she simply laughed off.

Snowball fight

My mother talked with my teacher about this “fieldtrip” at the next parent/teacher conference. (Oops!) When my teacher set her straight on my “story,” she came home and was furious with me. But my father didn’t seem to be upset with me.


I’ve looked back on that time with thankfulness that my dad didn’t rip into me. But I always felt like he kind of offered me …
… a grace that shouldn’t have been given in the first place.
Now, as I look back on it, I feel like he truly gave me the kind of “grace” that Jesus modeled. I didn’t deserve my dad’s grace, but he offered it anyway.

I’m not saying that I shouldn’t have been punished, because I don’t remember what the punishment was, but I’m sure they punished me! It just meant that he forgave me. And maybe, he understood how I felt and had compassion on me.

At that time, I told my mom the reason I made up a “story” was because I didn’t have exciting stories to tell her like my much older brother and sister did. I think I wanted to jazz up my life or at least the “story of my life.” I had no other reason for doing it. It wasn’t so that I could get out of trouble for doing something wrong. It simply was wishful thinking that bled over into my reality.
Maybe my dad could see that. Maybe he knew I didn’t have sinister motives. But even if that wasn’t part of his reasoning …
It was a nice and comforting gift that he gave me.
I don’t think I gave him full credit for that grace until today. I think I’ve lived with the belief that my mom’s judgment was more just and true and have lived my life and mothering in the same way. I don’t want to live that way anymore.
I want my life to mirror the reality that is Christ, where grace trumps justice.
Pray for me as I endeavor to be more gracious, more forgiving in not just my marriage, but all areas of my life. It’s not going to be easy. But I know that if I live this way, it can be my best year yet!

Photo by far closer (Flickr)

  • Lisa Maria

    Hi Beth

    I can relate to this and I will be praying for you…and myself too! I love this concept, “where grace trumps justice”. I see myself in you and my husband in your dad right now. I’m the one dispensing justice with self-righteous indignation and my husband usually is the one patting me on the back telling me to let it go.

    Thanks for sharing this and I hope and pray that your new year goals are fulfilled..as you say its not going to be easy but nothing worth achieving ever is!

    God bless and Happy New Year!

  • Kimberly

    LOVE THIS, Beth! I am confronting the fact that I am a big dispenser of “psudo-grace”. I think I’m being gracious and forgiving at the time, but I am really simply pandering to my own comfort and sweep it under the rug until the nastiness under the rug is so gross that I have to deal with it and even possibly have to buy a new rug and cleaning up the huge mess from all that just get’s all over EVERYBODY and I should have just cleaned it up properly to begin with. Thank you for reinforcing what TRUE GRACE is.

  • Angie in Guernsey

    Loved this! My wish for myself this year is to be more merciful and gracious – qualities I don’t reflect enough of. I’ve had the song ‘let me be a little kinder’ rolling around in my head since just before New Year, so this post chimes in perfectly. May we all be more gracious, more forgiving and more merciful – every day, everywhere, with everyone – wouldn’t the world be a great place?

  • Stacey Micklevitz

    Wow – there are many times that I feel justice is in order when raising and disciplining my boys because they have to learn that I mean what I say. I’m scratching my head (and back!!) thinking that a little grace just might go a long way! LY!

  • Heather

    I also need work in this area and will be praying for both of us. Thank you for letting me know I am not alone.

  • Pam

    Love the story, Beth!

  • messymarriage

    I’m so glad that we are sharing the same pull from Christ’s heart to be more gracious! And thanks so much for your encouragement, Angie! It means a lot! I’ll pray for you on your New Year’s journey!

  • messymarriage

    Exactly, Stacey! That’s always been my concern as well. But looking at my dad’s forgiveness from this angle really opened my eyes to a part of parenting (marriage, life, etc.) I think I often miss. It certainly is important to strike a good balance, but I want my heart to always lean toward the grace giving side. I think that’s what Christ does with me.

    Praying for you in your “scratching” too! I hope God showers you with grace and relieves your pain/itching in miraculous time! Thanks as always for encouraging me! LY!

  • messymarriage

    Yeah, I get that, Kimberly. It’s easy to “act gracious” and be seething underneath. I don’t want to live that way either and have done that more times than I care to admit. True grace is going to take Christ loving through you and me, because I know I can’t do it without Him! Thanks so much for your constant encouragement! 🙂

  • messymarriage

    I’m so glad that you were able to see some personal dynamics in my story. I think we all can relate, if we are honest with ourselves. Thanks so much for weighing in, Lisa Maria! It always brightens my day!

  • messymarriage

    Thanks so much, Heather, for praying for me, for us! And as far as the gift of letting you know you’re not alone–well, that’s what Messy Marriage is all about! None of us are perfect, but thankfully, God loves us enough to redeem all of our messes! Hugs*

  • messymarriage

    Thanks for stopping by and saying, Pam! Your kind words warm my heart! 🙂

  • I also want to be a mother who is ruled by grace rather than mere justice. Thank you for reminding me that it’s wonderful to feel forgiven from someone you have wronged. (A person came to mind, and I’m going to go call her right now.)

  • messymarriage

    Actually, doing that exercise had the same effect on me. I hadn’t really stopped to consider how it felt to be forgiven by another human being. I often have focused on how it feels to be forgiven by Christ–and that’s wonderful! But remembering how it felt to be forgiven by another fallen human being helps my motivation to be a better mom in a different kind of way.

    Anyway, I’m so glad it has moved you to show gratitude to another for her sweet forgiveness. Thanks for encouraging me too! 🙂