I saw a beautiful picture of grace yesterday. A real bestowing of favor on someone less deserving.
I saw a father braiding his daughter’s hair.
It wasn’t some random thing I happened to catch in the corner of my eye. I know these people. I know their stories.
I know the daughter. This teenage vulgarian, who is known to cause household strife when things don’t go her way. This young lady who, like every other teen that has ever existed, is sure she knows best. This child, with impulse issue, almost from day one, and still, even on year 14.
I don’t think there was a doubt in her mind that she was loved by her parents when she was younger, but as the teenage years crept in, disdain flew past any adoring thoughts. Struggles ensued, and even to this day, the parents do more to keep the peace, then to rile up strife. They came to a point where it’s just not worth it, whether for sanity or physical health, but likely for both, and then some.
I know, based on good account, that this child could probably deserve the harshest parental sentence imaginable. Many would say this child needs her “butt whooped! They have to learn respect!” As if physical punishment is the end all, be all, of perfect parenting techniques. Yeah, and Christians never sin anymore. They just make “mistakes” once in a while. We all tell ourselves lies to make ourselves more comfortable.
I have seen these parents reduced to tears over this teenage overlord’s ability to put aside any concern for anyone else, including family, for her own selfish needs. I’ve seen the tirade of “colorful language” as this child berates her parents for being stupid.
I know the father. He works tirelessly, even despite having a chronic illness that can be limiting at times, to be a dutiful husband and father. He serves. He serves, but much of that service goes into the “have to” category of, “it’s your job!” We can all agree, especially where children are concerned, that it can a thankless one at times.
This father, takes on all the disdain, all the attitude, all the anger, underserved mind you, and takes it on himself. I can’t imagine fully what demons he himself wrestles with, that are only exasperated by the piling on of an obstinate teenager.
Then… These words;
“Dad, can you braid my hair?”
For whatever reason, this young girl has not learned to braid her own hair yet. It is a wild mange of thick unmanageable curls. I could imagine it would be easier to navigate them looking over it from above, then trying to manage it haphazardly by sheer guesswork. People do go to salons for this kind of thing. Fortunate for this ungrateful whelp of a child. This dad has picked up the knack for it, even if it’s doing just above a serviceable job.
I know what you’re thinking. There’s no way in hell! This parent should not, in no way, no how, do this child’s hair! You want something from me, you earn it! It’s a fair argument, more than fair. Society is all about transactions.
And yet, here’s this dad. Tired from the day’s work. He’s probably tired of a lot of things. He’s probably tired of dealing with this child. Still, he sits down on the edge of the couch, encourages his daughter to sit below him on the floor. As he begins to separate sections of hair and join other bunches together, his mind runs quick with thoughts, I’m sure.
“Why am I even doing this? She doesn’t deserve this! Why do I bother?”
But slowly and surely, he makes progress. Two, three, four lines of not too thick, but tightly wound braids sit atop this head he’d rather smack. When done, barely a thank you is mumbled out as this girl checks her father’s work in the mirror.
For one hour, barely a word was spoken. There was peace in this house as this father served his daughter. This dad serves and loves. He does so by providing the regular things, “he’s supposed to provide.” Clothes, meals, a bed.
But, there’s grace in the above and beyond. There’s grace in twisting the hair of a child into four neat strands who doesn’t deserve it. We probably don’t even realize that’s what it is. Who thinks, “I just did an act of grace!” Most parents would just call it, “being a parent.” We do a million little things for our kids that go unnoticed, and more than likely, undeserved.
That’s still grace. Whether we know it or not.
Those braids, the drive to the mall for a new dress, or new sneakers, for no reason, is the ring on the finger of the prodigal son. It is the fatted calf and party held in his honor.
We know the prodigal returned. We know he was desperate when he did. I’m beginning to think he knew his father would take him back in some capacity. He knew he could use that to his advantage. It’s not to say he wasn’t sincere in how sorry he was, he just knew his dad, knew his heart.
You live with someone long enough, you’re bound to know their heart. How far you can push. How much you can ask for.
You know someone else you can push past the limits of what you think you deserve?
Like a petulant and petty child, you probably do it already, much more than you know. I would say that we all push past the boundaries of God’s grace, if there was one. How do you push past, “undeserved?”
What child could push past a parent’s love?
Grace twists braids.
I saw it, with my own two eyes
A theological misfit landing in the area of Lutheranism, Dominick has come to deeply appreciate the truth of scripture as defined by the distinction between Law and Gospel. He has found freedom in knowing that Christ is his substitute on even his worst days. He has been for the course of his church life everything from chair-stacker to men's ministry leader. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and two great young men, which he can say without a doubt, he doesn't deserve. He counts among his favorite things: Star Trek, classic superhero comics, movies, Yankees and yes, he admits to it, the Knicks. He enjoys a good conversation and good food. Finally, he is grateful for the opportunity to share the message of God's Grace among all these great teachers, pastors and theologians and hopes he doesn't mess up big time. But then again, that's what grace is for, right?