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.