A mother-in-law's faith

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I once heard a comedian ask, "Do you know how cold it was that day? Let me tell you: It was colder than a mother-in-law's hug!"

My mother-in-law died last week, and I was privileged to have had the eulogy. There was nothing cold about her treatment of me. I was wrapped in her warm embrace from the first moment her daughter brought me home to meet her parents in the fall of 1977. Mother was often called upon to fill in for her pastor when he was away. As a result, as we began an inventory of her things post-funeral, I came upon this short devotional message, written in her beautiful cursive, that I don't know if she ever had a chance to preach in a worship service. It seems right that her words should see the light of day in this column. So I offer this to you, dear reader, in blessed memory of Lois G. Ford (1929-2011), the following words from her pen:

Some time ago, as I read a daily devotional, three words were defined in a way I will never forget. The author wrote: Grace is when you get what you don't deserve. Mercy is when you don't get what you do deserve. Peace is what you have when you receive grace and mercy.

A couple of years ago (when I was about 14), I went to a party at a friend's home. We had a great time, laughing, gabbing, swooning over Frank Sinatra records, but I stayed too long at the party and I found myself walking home alone long after midnight. I had almost a mile to walk, most of it up a long, dark tree-lined hill. I was afraid: not of the dangers in the darkness (this was nearly 70 years ago). No, I was afraid of what was at the top of the hill: my parents! I knew they were at home, waiting, and surely very angry.

As I started up that dark hill, a large figure approached me from out of the darkness. It was my father, worried about me, searching for me, meeting me to take me home safely. Friends, that was grace. Grace! He loved me and gave me what I did not deserve.

He said not a word. He turned and began walking beside me. I expected at the very least a terrible scolding. I expected to be grounded for weeks!

Truth be told, I should have had a spanking for causing him such heartsick fear. But instead, my father took my hand and walked beside me. I did not get what I deserved. Oh, mercy. Mercy!

He walked on in silence, my young hand in his worn and calloused one, rough from years of handling parts in an automobile dealership. I felt chastised and ashamed but secure and at peace, for I knew I was loved and forgiven. My father had led me safely home. That is peace. Peace!

Dear friends, if our earthly fathers can give us these things we need, how much more can our heavenly Father do? He missed us when we are lost, seeks us out, loves us even when we are the most unlovable. Grace!

He gives us what we don't deserve. He took our sins to the cross, suffering and dying for us weak and sinful creatures. We do not get what we deserve. That is mercy. Infinite mercy!

And as he leads us gently home, he implants the third jewel in our hearts-- peace.

And now to you friends: grace, mercy and peace. Amen.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: