Summary: Shaping the people around us into being the people we would like them to be is not our job - it’s God’s.
Grace Based Relationships Part 1 October 6, 2002
Relationships When Grace Is Not In Place
Genesis 3 (16)
Over the next few weeks I will be speaking through a series called Grace Based Relationships. The series is taken from a book by Jeff Van Vonderen called “Families Where Grace is in Place.” While Jeff’s book concentrates on relationships within the family, I believe that the biblical principles that he teaches can be applied to all our relationships, especially the primary ones
He begins his book with a story of a father and daughter (pages 13-16)
A man asked his twelve-year-old daughter one day, "Chrissy, can you do something for me?"
"Sure, Dad," Chrissy answered. "What would you like me to do?"
"Right now I need to run an errand. But later on I have to do some work with that fence over there," he said, pointing to the high old fence that stood guard over the back of their property. "Would you please clean up the debris that’s all along the edge of it? You can put it in these bags, and when I get back I’ll carry them away."
"Okay, Dad," she replied.
The dad left, and Chrissy started on her task. In less than an hour she was finished with the entire job. Her dad wasn’t home yet, so she tried to think of something else to do to help. Looking at the old fence, she thought, 1’11 bet dad is going to paint this old fence. I’ll give him a head start. He’ll sure be surprised when he gets home.
The sun was hot, the brush was stiff, and the fence was high. After about an hour Chrissy was tired, sweaty, and discouraged. She looked at what she’d accomplished so far. What a bogus job. 1 give up. I’m a terrible helper:
Just then Chrissy’s dad pulled up. But he didn’t get out. He just sat there looking at the fence. The streaky brush marks spoke of an old paintbrush in inexperienced hands. He could picture his sweet Chrissy perched on the tips of her toes, working hard.
When he got out of the car there was Chrissy. She was covered with so much dirt and paint that it was hard to see her skin. As he got a closer look, he could see the trails of sweat and tears through the grime on her face.
Chrissy ran to him. "Daddy, I wanted to help so much," she cried.
Chrissy’s dad led her to a nearby lawn chair. Sitting down with her on his lap he said, "Sweetie, I’ve got some bad news, some worse news, and some good news.
"The bad news is that I have new brushes and a step stool in the trunk of my car. I ran the errand to pick up those things at the hardware store. That brush you were using belonged to your grandpa. It isn’t useful for much more than a keepsake."
"Well, that’s bad news," said Chrissy. "What’s the worse news?" "The worse news is that I’m going to tear down the fence." "What? After all that work! Why?"
"Because it’s served its purpose, it can’t be repaired, and I have the stuff right over there by the garage to build a brand-new one. Ready for the good news?" Dad asked anxiously.
"I suppose." Chrissy sniffed.
Chrissy’s dad took her face in his hands, looked full into her eyes and, with tears in his own, said, "Chrissy, I really love you. And I am so proud that you gave that old fence a try. Why don’t you get in the car and I’ll take you out for some ice cream."
"After I wasted all that time and made a terrible mess?"
"Well, you know," her father countered, "with the lousy tools you had you didn’t stand a very good chance. And besides that, it wasn’t even your job. So let’s have some ice cream. After that, if you’re still game, we can build the new fence together. This one will be much prettier. And it’s specially designed to let the sun shine in and let the breeze blow through our yard. ..."
The story of Chrissy and her dad is very much like that of so many Christians in relationships. We want to do the right thing. We try like crazy to have a Christian marriage and to raise Christian kids to have Christian friendships.
Too often, though, the work we try to do as Christian spouses and parents, family members, and friends is not the right job at all. We focus on "unspiritual" or wrong behavior, then we set out to apply pressure, control behavior, and do everything in our power to change our spouse or children or others we have primary relationships with. In numerous Christian couples and families, this is the primary cause of exhaustion, depression, and the hopeless sense of wanting to bailout of it all. When people spend their lives trying to transform their spouse and their kids, the natural result is tiredness and discouragement and the desire to quit. Therefore, this series is more about learning the right job, and less about learning new techniques.