Some places evoke bad memories. Maybe it was your hometown. Or perhaps the house where you grew up or the school you attended. The place itself is neutral. But the events associated with it have forever changed it in your memory.
The Valley of Achor was such a site. After Joshua’s victory at Jericho, the Israelites suffered defeat at Ai because a man named Achan had buried banned spoils of war under his tent (Joshua 7:1, 21).
After this event, the valley served as a reminder of failure, of setback, and of defeat. But God would change the place from a site of trouble to a place of triumph.
He can do the same for you.
People must be given room to grow, which includes room to fail, to think on their own, to disagree, to make mistakes. Grace must be risked, or we will be stunted Christians who don’t think, who can’t make decisions, who operate in fear and without joy because we know nothing but someone else’s demands and expectations.
Those who come to Jerusalem today for the first time are often surprised to learn that the original Jerusalem, “The City of David,” sat on a mere ten acres just south of the Temple Mount. Hardly impressive, it looks like some third-world neighborhood.
Steep slopes surround the City of David and gave it in a strategic advantage during any military threat. So much so, the inhabitants of Jebus felt confident “David cannot enter here” (2 Samuel 5:6). But he did, and David made the site his new capital.
The steep slopes became King David’s military strength.
But the slopes also played into his moral weakness. Here’s how.
Years ago when one of my girls was only three, she snuck in the kitchen, climbed on the cabinet, found some candy, went to her room, closed the door, and hid under her bed to eat the sweets. How did she figure out how to do this?
My other daughter was not even two years old yet when she asked for a drink from a bottle. When I gave her a cup instead, she hurled it across the room and screamed, “NNOOO!!!!!” Just precious.
Like you, I never taught my children to disobey. It is in their nature. It’s in my nature too, by the way. And it’s in yours.
But that’s okay. Here’s why.
The hard facts of life, which knock some of the nonsense out of us, are God’s facts and His appointed school of character; they are not alternatives to His grace, but means of it.
I heard them board the airplane before I saw them. A mother was pushing one toddler in front of her and dragging another behind. The only available seats were the three right in front of me.
I had never considered childproof locks on airline seatbelts. Now, I’m certain there’s a market for them. I would have bought one.
(Picture: Meet Theo.)
For more than two straight hours I watched the younger son—who reminded me of Bugs Bunny’s Tasmanian devil—jump, flail, thrash, flap, flop, hop, laugh—but mostly, scream. I don’t remember the name of the older son.
But I’ll never forget the Tasmanian devil’s name: “Theo.” I know because I heard it 863 times.
Absolutely undaunted, the mother used her large voice without embarrassment to correct Theo. She also informed the rest of us what was about to happen.
Once after Theo took his crayon and marked on the wall of the airplane (see the mark on the wall at left?), she jerked him from the window seat and announced to the rest of us, “Sorry about the screaming for the next 10 minutes, folks!” She was right. Little Theo let us have it.
First, Second, and Third Reactions
My first reaction was to wonder why the mother hadn’t brought along a gallon of Tylenol PM. (If not for Theo, then for the rest of us.)
My second reaction to this irritation was—I confess—frustration and resentment. After all, I paid just as much for my loud seat as the lucky people in the quiet part of the plane.
But my third reaction took my attitude in a completely different direction.
God boarded the plane at that moment and somehow found room in my narrow heart.
Then she shared with me a list of things all Gentiles need to do in order for God to accept them. I recognized some of the standards as being from the Ten Commandments, and I told her so. Again, she smiled and shook her head.
“Those commandments are for the Jews,” she said.
“Do you keep them?” I asked.
Every time I watch this video, it inspires me that we’re here to share the love of Christ to a world that needs God’s grace.
Question: What is “grace” to you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.