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Thoughts From Allison Gappa Bottke

Dear Friends,

This story is one of many found under the category of "Life Lessons" in the book, "God Allows U-Turns: True Stories of Hope and Healing" by Allison Gappa Bottke. It's actually the second volume and is titled, "MORE God Allows U-Turns." This particular story has to do with the physical discipline of children. I found it intriguing. I believe you might as well. Enjoy.

A Severe Mercy

"According to my mother, who was the disciplinarian in my home, I was a precocious boy, prone to mischief. The most severe punishment I ever got, however, was not from my mother but from my gentle father. Many people said my dad reminded them of Jimmy Stewart. He was tall and trim with the same side-part hairstyle and boyish grin. After the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" was released in 1946, folks in our town, McKinney, Texas, teased him by calling him George Bailey. Not only was his resemblance to Jimmy Stewart uncanny, but my dad also worked at the First Savings and Loan!
I loved to walk down to the town square after school and spend time with dad at the office. Mom didn't get home from her secretarial job until after five, so I would have at least an hour to run the adding machine, oversee a cash register closeout, or listen to some anxious patron wanting a loan. True enough, mom had given me explicit instructions to go straight home after school, but dad was content to keep our secret. The trouble was I didn't always make it to the square or the bank. I no longer remember the exact details of how it happened, but somehow a friend's yard caught on fire late one afternoon after school as the two of us worked on our cooking merit badge for the Boy Scouts. Mom was called at work and she was MAD! "I told you to go home after school" was all she said on our long ride home. She banished me to my room without so much as a tongue-lashing. Never before had mom failed to administer justice when it came time to teach me a lesson. This was a first. Usually I just took my mother's corporal punishment, if not willingly, at least with a sense of relief that dad would never have to know.
"Your father will have to deal with this," she coldly stated. I truly was repentant, but mostly I was sorry that my adored father was going to have to find out about "the accident." I secretly prayed that mother would change her mind and storm into my room and get it over with. But, alas, it was not to be. All too soon, I heard the sound of my father's car pulling into the driveway. I heard my parents talking in the living room and then footsteps approaching my room. We went into the bathroom to talk. Dad sat on the commode and I sat on the side of the tub. There was never a question about my guilt. I was very contrite and there was no argument about the horrible consequences of my disobedience. "This is bad," dad said respectfully, "there's going to have to be a severe punishment. Stand up, turn around, and hold onto the shower door," he directed.

As I braced myself, I heard dad stand up and loosen his belt buckle. I heard the sound of the folded belt whizzing through the air, and I anticipated the stinging blow. I heard the loud crack, but felt nothing! Confused, I turned around. My gentle father's hand was poised in midair, ready once again to thrash his own leg. "No!" I protested. All of our past, and all of our future, hung there in that moment. "This time, I took your punishment," dad stammered. "You have been given mercy instead of what you deserve. We quickly forget a spanking, but we never forget what mercy feels like."
Mercy. Such as that given to us by the Lord Himself when He died for us on Calvary's cross. Suddenly, I truly understood what mercy meant, and I would never forget it. Though it was close to forty years ago, I can still vividly recall my father's tear-streaked face and the disappointment in his eyes that day. I remember it most when I look into the pleading face of my own son. It is then I truly understand. As Christ taught His children, as my father taught me, and as I strive to teach my son, may the lesson of severe and loving mercy never be lost."
I'm sure some of you have other memories (similar or maybe very different) regarding parental discipline situations. I have one. As a fifteenish teen -- and by no means purposely -- I burned down my grandfather's milk shed one cold winter's day, by leaving a fire burning in a small cast iron wood stove. Mindlessly, I had left without any thought of putting it out. It burned the milkshed to the cement foundation, destroyed my cousins car which he had parked under an attached roof, and my grandfather's huge mobile log-cutting saw. Since it was an old building, with very dry lumber, it burned hot and quick. I returned from wherever I had gone only to see a smoldering heap of ashes, and a vast array of police cars and fire trucks with their lights flashing in the dark of the evening.
Afterward, the Fire Chief pulled my dad aside and told him how the fire had started. I braced myself for when I got home, expecting to get pulled aside, yelled at, or rightfully ridiculed for my irresponsible carelessness which cost my grandfather thousands of dollars, and my cousin his car (which was not insured). But what I expected (and deserved) didn't come my way. My father did shake his head in great disappointment but simply told me that the next day we were going to take a walk. It was the longest half-mile walk I ever took -- up to the Fire Chief's house. There I knocked on the door, admitted fault, and apologized for all the trouble I had caused so many. Given what I had done, and what I deserved, it was also an expression of mercy and a gift of grace. The father above is right: "We quickly forget a spanking, but we never forget what mercy feels like."

Living in the Grace of Jesus, Pastor Jeff


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