Stories of Grace: No Longer a Good Girl

As we count down to our 10th anniversary conference, we’ll be featuring stories of grace on our blog. This series is a very personal one to those of us who have been with Rooted for a while. Our journey as a ministry is only one that can be understood through hunger for the Gospel and the generosity of God with his beautiful grace. It’s the story of unlikely travelers embarking on an unknown journey filled with many triumphs and failures – and being blown away at God’s grace every step of the way.

Our prayer is that as you read these stories of grace, you’ll come to see your own story in the light of God’s grace. And that you, too, will be awakened afresh to the grace of God in your own lives, and to anticipate together with all God’s people the adventures that lie ahead! 

When I was fifteen years old my parents went out of town for the weekend. My younger sisters were sent to our grandparents and I was granted the privilege of arranging my own supervised whereabouts. The freedom of that proved too tempting, and I took the proverbial bite. My five best friends and I told our parents a labyrinth of lies that enabled us to be trespassers in my empty home on the Saturday night of my free weekend.

Our plan was to introduce ourselves to the forbidden fruit of alcohol without the obstacle of coming home to inquisitive parents. I cannot remember how we acquired a bottle of rum, but by 4:30 Saturday afternoon we were assembled in my home and busy preparing for our initiation. Leaving no margin for error, we went through every room in my house and made notes about how we found them. “Curtains half closed,” “milk on middle shelf,” “pillows on the floor,” and “bathroom mirror light on” were all carefully notated so my parents, and my friends’ parents, would remain clueless.

About three sips into our strawberry daiquiris (because that is the perfect alcoholic concoction to cut your teeth on), the doorbell rang. We froze. Next came loud knocking followed by loud voices. It seems the word had gotten out that there was a house without parents and a party underway. Who needs social media? Before we could hide our drinks, there were kids, many of whom were strangers to us, covering my front lawn and insisting that as our new best friends, they should be welcomed in.

I don’t remember much about the next several hours except that at a certain point a police car drove down my street, and in a nano second we were once again just the six of us. The immediate nightmare was over, and miraculously, the house and yard were littered but undamaged. We went straight to bed dumbstruck by what we had barely dodged, wondering why no one had had any fun.

The morning came with the grisly task of restoring my house to its pre-invaded state, and after multiple bags of trash, we succeeded. With throbbing heads and foiled expectations, we followed every detail of our notes until my house and yard had no evidence of the past eighteen hours.

At 8:00 that Sunday evening, I walked in my front door from our church’s youth meeting (irony noted) to welcome my parents home. One look at their faces and I knew I was caught. In all our brilliance, my friends and I had left our cheat sheet on the kitchen counter! Shame flooded me and I could not bear their gaze. As a card-carrying “good girl,” this was as much a wakeup call for me as I believe it was for my parents.

Strangely enough, I also felt relief. I did not have a secret from my parents. I was not going to get tripped up when I recited the lie I had constructed about how I spent my Saturday night. I cried bitter tears and tried to articulate the genuine regret I felt. And here is the amazing thing: my parents forgave me and did not further punish me. I still had Monday morning at school to face when my embarrassment and humiliation reached the tipping point, but at home I had love and forgiveness.

This crisis moment in my young life has informed me as a parent. I wish I could say grace led the way every time I have encountered bad behavior by one of our children, but certainly in their more notorious disobedience, I have remembered that profound moment of grace given to me when I had earned nothing but punishment and my parents’ wrath.

Romans 5:20 says it perfectly: Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Applying this as parents is often tricky, as we are not God, and our children are not always in a place to receive our expressions of grace. I am convinced, however, that when a child is caught, or confesses, and demonstrates a sincere sense of remorse and displeasure in his or her self, a parent can be God’s instrument of grace. In Christ, the power of forgiveness is more effective than the power of condemnation.

Consequences of disobedience are real and the Bible does not say otherwise. Just consider King David and the consequences of his betrayal with Bathsheba. My night of willful disobedience was fraught with consequences, and I got off easy! The police could have stopped, my home could have been ransacked, the possibilities for graver consequences go on and on. The point is, it felt the opposite of easy to my fifteen-year-old self and my parents were wise not to pile it on with more punishment. It was their forgiveness that gave me a way to repent of my sin.

This is the power of the Gospel. God’s grace and forgiveness ALWAYS exceed our sin. Grace moves us to repentance. Grace ushers in new life and a clean slate. Grace is what motivates us to feel forgiven. This is as true for our teenagers as it is for us.

We parents can spare ourselves some serious grief when we see our children as they truly are: both sinful and completely forgiven by a perfect savior who loves them even more than we do. Every time I recall my misadventure that long-ago weekend, I conclude that Jesus loved me so much he made sure I left the cheat sheet on the counter. May he love my children just as well.

Carolyn Lankford lives in Birmingham, Alabama and has three grown children with her late husband, Frank. Formerly a co-director of Christian Education at the Church of the Advent, Carolyn served as the Advancement Officer at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University before transitioning back to the Advent to work as Interim Director of Women's Ministry from 2021-2022.

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