It had been a long day. I was tired. I was hungry. It was the perfect night for Chinese take-out. There are three Chinese take-outs within 2 miles of my house. But my family likes the one that is five miles away. So that is where I went.
After I picked up my order, I started on my way home. The aroma of chicken with vegetables, beef and broccoli, and fried wontons filled my car. I was so tempted to open up the bag and have a little taste.
Just as I was about to turn down my street, my cell phone rang. It was the restaurant. They apologized and explained that they had made a mistake and given me the wrong order. I had somebody else’s shrimp chow mien (which is not something my family would eat). So I turned around and drove back to the restaurant.
When I walked in, the young woman at the counter who’d made the error looked like a puppy who had just been caught chewing apart a new pair of shoes. I think she was preparing herself to be chastised and told how incompetent she was.
She seemed surprised and relieved when she saw neither anger or condemnation. What she didn’t realize was that I worked in a Chinese take-out place all through high school and had also messed up big time on some orders. I’d been on the other side of the counter and had been yelled at by a few unhappy customers.
I was sort of glad that it took ten minutes to get back there as I needed that time to change my heart toward grace. Honestly, my first reaction to the phone call was to think, “Are you kidding me? How could you do this?” I thought of wanting to tell them how much of an inconvenience this was and how this mistake was probably going to make me late for an evening event. I wondered if I made enough fuss about it that they would give me my order for free, or at the least, give me a bag of almond cookies.
But fortunately, small grace won out.
Often when we think of grace and forgiveness, we think of the major transgressions. We think of people who have been hurt in a big way. Or we think of the forgiveness that God offers to us for our sin. We don’t often think of small grace. We don’t think of those almost insignificant things that people do to us that still require our grace.
When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray he said “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Some bible translations use the word “trespass” instead of “debts”.
I sometimes think about all the times during the day someone trespasses on me. Maybe they deliberately walked fast past me to beat me to the check-out line. Or maybe they cut me off in traffic. Perhaps their child got more playing time in the game than my child did. Possibly I felt slighted that I didn’t get the credit I felt I deserved. Maybe I wasn’t included in an invitation or a conversation. None of these things are big deals, but when they happen to us, they do have an impact on our hearts.
Sometimes we are trespassed against by our own family. A spouse who is constantly running late. A promise not kept. Dishes piled up in the sink. A whiny teen-ager who is getting on our nerves. Not feeling appreciated for all that we do.
God calls us to grace not only in the big things, but the small things as well. Couples who have marriage grace can let the small things go. They can forgive one another easily.
One friend told me about the time that her husband had said something that, to her, came out sounding rather harsh. She thought about responding back in a harsh manner, but instead, she gave him the gift of small grace. She thought about how she was convinced of his deep love for her and that he probably didn’t mean it to sound the way that it came out. She gave him the benefit of the doubt. She gave him marriage grace.
“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” John 1:16
Grace is a gift that God gives to us. Grace is a generous act of God. And because of His grace, we have a choice to give it to others. It is not always easy. It is not in our human nature to do so. Our human nature is selfish and focused on self-preservation. Offering grace is both a mindset and a heartset. (Okay, “heartset might not be a word, but you get what I mean). We have to train our heart to respond with grace.
I recently started playing the mandolin after years of playing the guitar. I thought it would be an easy transition since they are similar in so many ways. What I didn’t realize was that the chords are completely different. Playing chords on the guitar takes no effort at all. My fingers naturally just move to right strings on the frets. But to play those same chords on the mandolin takes a concentrated effort. Over and over, I have to practice to make my fingers go to the right place. When I find that I haven’t practiced, my mind wants to revert to playing guitar chords instead of mandolin chords.
The point is, we need to be intentional about grace. We have to train our hearts and minds to give even the smallest of grace. It doesn’t come naturally. But when we learn to give grace in the small things it is much easier to offer grace when the big things come along. Small graces are large in the lives of others.
This week, challenge yourself to be more grace-filled in the smallest of things. I think you will find that it will impact your life more than you think.
I always thank my God for you
because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 1:4
By Pete Larson
Husband to Lynn, Father of two
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Executive Director of Family Fest Ministries
Meet Pete at the HeartCORe Conference in Minneapolis on November 14, 2015! Register HERE!