Running into grace

Published on October 08, 2021

A common misconception about my family is that since both of my grandfathers were evangelists and preachers, everyone in the family must be saints. In reality, we are all a bunch of sinners, making mistakes, in need of discipline and correction. 

The fact that you and I are fallible humans provides opportunities to be witnesses to God’s grace, if we only listen to his leading. 

Childhood fights

When my mom was growing up and even when I was growing up, kids were allowed a lot more freedom than most have today. The freedom was good for developing magnificent imaginations but not so good when we were left to our own devices. Sometimes that led to bad decisions and tough consequences. 

We grew up hearing stories about how, when being disciplined, my mom and her siblings would crawl out the windows of their locked rooms, step onto the roof, and climb over the top of the house in order to enter another sibling’s room; or how my Aunt Gigi slammed the courtyard door on my Uncle Franklin, cutting off the top of one of his fingers; or how one of my mom’s sisters forced her to go door to door in the autumn, selling colored leaves to neighbors who had yards full of colored leaves; or how that sister hid behind a tree stump and threw mud balls at passing cars, then pushed my mom out to take the blame when the driver stopped the car and pronounced judgment. 

I’m not sure our childhood fights ever reached the level of the epic battles that my mom had with her siblings, but we may have managed to come in a close second. I’m ashamed to say that my sister and I could get pretty ugly at times. 

Sibling rivalry 

One afternoon Morrow and I had gotten into yet another knock-down, drag-out fight. Usually when one of us did something to upset the other, we would draw an invisible line down the middle of the bedroom we shared and forbid the other person to cross it—or else. The “or else” usually involved throwing things or hitting each other. Really mature stuff. 

Unfortunately on this particular afternoon, I did something to push Morrow beyond the limits of her patience. She chased me out of our room, down the stairs, through the kitchen, and around the corner toward the back door. Running for my life, I felt my heart pounding, my adrenaline pumping, and terror spurring me on. 

Still, Morrow was closing in fast. My memory of the scene is all in slow motion. As I rounded the corner, I could see the glass door ahead barring my way to freedom. I opened the latch as fast as I could, and in my adrenaline-fueled panic, I slammed it right as she reached me. What I hadn’t anticipated in that moment of victory was that the glass would shatter on impact. Into a million shards. 

Much to my shame, I didn’t even turn around to look. I knew I was as good as dead. My mom and dad were so authoritative that George Washington, Napoleon, and General Patton all would have stood at attention and saluted if they ever heard their names called by either one. 

We always teased my mom that she had one particular look with the power to stop us as abruptly as if a pack of wolves had jumped in our path, making our insides go numb. My dad didn’t take the time to even give us a look. 

He would whip out his belt and snap it in his hands before we could blink. While my parents certainly never abused us, they did execute judgment at appropriate times.  In the wake of the shattering glass, I didn’t pause to catch a look, hear my name, or listen for the sound of leather. 

Facing my actions

My sense of guilt and the certainty of the dire consequences to come sent me running to the best hiding spot I could think of: the back-seat floorboard of my mom’s navy-blue station wagon. I roasted in the close confines of the stifling car. But I really started to sweat when I heard Mom calling me. Chills snaked up my spine, as if I were playing in some horror version of hide-and-seek. My mom came into the garage, yelling my name. 

Eight years of obedience training had taught me to respond when being called. I knew I had stalled long enough. I opened the door of the car and climbed out, my face on fire from embarrassment and shame. My mom said in a booming voice, “Go to your room!” If she said anything else, I didn’t hear it over the locomotive roar of blood rushing through my veins. 

My parents must have known that solitude would give me time to think about my actions. I felt horrible as I wondered whether Morrow had gotten hurt. I also felt horrible as I wondered about the pain to be inflicted on my backside. I contemplated packing my pants with stuffed animals to cushion the sting of the spankings that were sure to come. As if my dad wouldn’t notice the shape of Peter Rabbit under my sweatpants! 

Then I heard the familiar creak of our stairs, and I knew my dad was coming. I braced myself for the look of disappointment and the inevitable consequences. Dad came in and sat down on the edge of my bed, causing the springs to squeak. I remember the lights weren’t on, but the late-afternoon sun cast shadows across the room. What happened next took me completely by surprise. 

A huge dose of grace

“Rach, I want to teach you about grace,” my dad said. “What you did was wrong. You deserve to be punished and spanked.” (He even gritted his teeth dramatically when he said it.) 

“But instead of punishing you for breaking the glass door, I am going to take you to get ice cream.” I felt like time had frozen while my brain processed what I was hearing. I began to cry. 

Dad went on to explain that his grace to me was a picture of God’s grace to us. We deserve death for our sins, but God sent his Son to the cross to take away our sins and give us eternal life. When we place our faith in him, we no longer live under the horror of knowing our sins are sending us to hell. 

Instead, because of his grace, we are forgiven and blessed, and we can walk in freedom. I think that was the first time I truly grasped what grace is, and I’ve never forgotten it. 

You must first run to God

So many times people run from God, like I ran from my parents. We want to hide because we know we are guilty. We are ashamed and afraid of the punishment that we surely deserve. 

The magnificent thing that no human brain can ever fully grasp is how deep and wide is God’s love for us. He knows where we are hiding and why we are hiding. Yet he comes to us, wraps his arms around us, and extends his grace to us, covering our sin with his blood. 

He wipes away our sin—forever! His Word says so. 

Before you can teach your children, grandchildren, or others to run to God, you need to run to him yourself. When you do, you will find a loving heavenly Father who extends his grace to you. 

Once you’ve received his love and grace, it will be your joy and privilege to freely extend them to others. 

Excerpted from Jesus Followers: Real-Life Lessons for Igniting Faith in the Next Generation. Copyright © 2021 by Anne Graham Lotz and Rachel-Ruth Lotz Wright. Used by permission of Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Consider a few extra resources:

Parenting Teens: Grace or Consequences?

Give grace, for goodness’ sake

Giving grace instead of advice

Live perfectly imperfect

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Anne Graham Lotz & Rachel-Ruth Lotz Wright

Anne Graham Lotz—called “the best preacher in the family” by her father, Billy Graham—is an international speaker and the bestselling and award-winning author of numerous books, including Jesus in Me and the newly released book The Light of His Presence. Anne is the president of AnGeL Ministries in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the former chairperson for the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

Rachel-Ruth Lotz Wright serves on the board of directors for AnGeL Ministries, in addition to holding the position of Ministry Teaching Associate and chairing the weekly prayer team that undergirds her mother’s ministry. A graduate of Baylor University, she teaches an online weekly Bible study that draws thousands of people globally.

Read more about Anne Graham Lotz & Rachel-Ruth Lotz Wright

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