My family rented an old house in Franklin, MA when I was young. Property taxes are high up there, so a good eyesore can help keep things reasonable. Our house’s eyesore was a rickety, worn out garage. Rickety went to new heights with this structure; at least, that is what I was told. The entire neighborhood was carved out of a hill, so the basement of the house had a door into the backyard, there was a cliff on both sides of the house (our own personal rock-climbing wall), and a garage built on very old stilts.
As renters, there was nothing we could do about the garage, so my parents taught us not to touch the old thing. I got the impression as a small child that the whole thing would tip over or crumble if I even put a finger on it.
I obeyed for a time. I looked at the garage, got close to the garage, and looked through the windows of the garage (it was full of junk), but I did not touch the garage. I just knew that if I laid one finger on that building, it would come tumbling down. I wasn’t too concerned about the garage itself, but if the garage fell down, Mom and Dad would find out I touched it. There would be bad trouble if that happened.
At some point, an unneeded measure of bravery rose up in me. After looking at the garage long enough, I gave in to temptation. No one was in sight when I reached out my hand and gently poked the garage with one finger. Nothing happened. I did it again. Nothing. I checked again to make sure no one was watching and placed my entire hand on the rough brown siding of the garage.
Fear diminished, the neighborhood kids and I eventually learned how to climb in the windows of the garage, although we never ventured very far in – we needed a quick escape route in case someone came near, and we were still a little nervous about toppling the garage.
Given more time, we climbed underneath the garage among the stilts. There were piles of old lumber under there, and we collected it for use in “building” a club house. We yanked and pulled on those boards. Sometimes, we weren’t sure if we were pulling on the foundation or the scrap! There were old bottles, rusted nails, spiders, mice, splintered ends, and who knows what else under there… There was good reason to honor my parents and stay far away from that garage.
1 John 1:5b--6 says, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”
I remember that garage well despite the fact that nothing disastrous ever happened in or around it. How often do we push little boundaries – that turn into big boundaries – and are protected by a mercy we don’t deserve? Looking back, I call my adventures around that garage what it was: sin. I knew it was wrong at the time, and I still know it was wrong. I am thankful we were kept safe. Anything could have happened under that garage. Someone could have been badly hurt – or killed. Frankly, I didn’t deserve safety, but isn’t that what grace is about?
We do stupid things in this life. All sin is stupid, because it is a rebellion against the all Holy God. It doesn’t matter if no one gets hurt. It doesn’t matter if the garage stays upright. It doesn’t matter if the parents never find out. What matters is that God’s law has been broken. A crime has been committed against the holiness of God and we are in desperate need of saving. Little or large, every sin is equally worth the judgment of God.
What amazing grace God offers us in Jesus Christ! He took the punishment for me! I could have died under that rickety garage. Worse, I could have made it out safe and sound, lived a long life, and died a natural death only to suffer eternal separation from God in hell.
Thanks be to God for the gift of grace that is mine through faith in Jesus Christ.
“The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:7b--9
I thank Him for saving me, giving me a second chance (and many more), and giving me a desire to do His will and obey His law. I still don’t obey Him perfectly, but everyday is a new day to live for Him and thank Him for His undeserved grace.