Grace and Mercy at the Library

I was at the library yesterday (I know, shocker), and I witnessed a beautiful example of unmerited grace and mercy.

Standing in line to purchase a book from the used book shelf (my little…habit), I happened to overhear the conversation between the librarian and the woman in line in front of me (yes, I’m one of THOSE people.  But how else would I get things to write about?).  The woman was returning a children’s book, what looked like a standard picture book for an elementary school aged kid.  She asked if there was an overdue charge on the book, and the librarian checked and told her that not only was there a $2 charge on the book, there was a total of $20 charged to the account.  Yikes!

Yes, at this point, I probably should have given her a bit more space and averted my eyes some more, but I couldn’t help myself from hearing what the librarian was going to do next.  Would the librarian give her a lecture on returning books? Would she give her the same speech she’d given me about refusing to allow her to check out other books until she’d paid the fine (very embarrassing, let me assure you).  Or would the woman just fork over the $20 and continue on her way.  Inquiring minds wanted to know.

None of the above.

The librarian said, “This is all on your son’s account.  He’s just a child.  I’m going to erase the $20 just this once, so his account will be clear.”

Just like that, the kid got mercy, and he didn’t even have to plead his case.  As a matter of fact, the mom didn’t have to do it either.  The librarian didn’t act like she knew the kid or the mom.  She didn’t have any reason to single out this particular person for this act of mercy.  She just did it.  And the kid was free to continue enjoying the benefits of the library, just like that.  Thta’s the grace part.

My pastor recently explained the difference between grace and mercy.  Grace is getting the blessings you don’t deserve.  Mercy is not getting the bad stuff you deserve.  God has given us both through his son Jesus.  We get blessings abounding and eternal life while we were yet sinners who deserved hell and eternal condemnation.

I struggle with understanding God’s grace and mercy, how he can shower it upon us who haven’t earned it in any way.  Sometimes, I’ll get all self righteous and think about reasons why God might have chosen me, but in reality, all my righteousness is “filthy rags” to God (Isaiah 64:6).

Seeing this little act of grace and mercy, on a stranger, no less, maybe I’m one step closer to understanding it better.  It also makes me wonder about what ways I can show grace and mercy in my everyday life, to reflect the God who has freely given me so much of the same.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. A bit of insider info: Circulation desk workers (those who check out books) may or may not be librarians. They are empowered to exercise grace via the “waive fines” option, but unlike God, that grace is noted on the record of the offender.

    The next time it happens, the past transgression will pop up on screen, and the penalty will be enforced upon the patron.

    I’m glad God grace is provided without history notes being added to my record.

    I have noted that Satan seems to enjoy record keeping though…and the IT department behind his pop up screen works better than the one I have at my job.

    AL: Isn’t it so true. God does keep no record of wrongs. Our sin is as far as the east is from the west, yet Satan likes to heap guilt and shame upon us (as do his servants here on earth), and make us feel awful about things we’ve already repented of and Jesus has died for. Oh to be free of the burdens that we so willingly place upon ourselves, that Jesus wants to take away every day!

  2. What a great “real world” example of mercy and grace! Thank you so much for sharing it! It’s always good to be reminded that God gives BOTH to us.

    AL: thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hi Amy, I liked the way you rephrased the “Grace vs. Mercy” quote. I like how you added, not getting “THE BAD SUFF” that you do deserve.
    So much better than “getting what you do deserve”
    I hope that was clear LOL
    I think this makes it perfectly clear. Some people just think that they deserve everything and really cant see the true meaning of “not getting what they do deserve”
    Wow does that sound confusing, but I think you know what I mean.
    Thank you. I reposted it on my FaceBook the way you wrote it.
    Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving.


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