When my kids were still quite little, our home had a beautiful green backyard with flowers, trees, and a creek. My husband and I enjoyed countless hours sitting on the back patio watching our four growing boys run and play, and our daughter toddle around behind them. I remember thinking the only thing missing in order for our backyard to be perfect would be a swing set for the kids. I knew, however, that a swing set was not in our budget, and I wanted to focus on what we had to be grateful for, especially lots of time outdoors.
Then, one October afternoon, our friends from across the street (a very sweet older couple, who had “adopted” our family) knocked at the door. When I opened, Dr. George had a smile on his face as he said, “Merry Christmas!” His greeting surprised me, but not half as much as what happened next. He backed his pick-up truck up to our patio, and with lots of help from excited youngsters, unloaded three enormous boxes. The Georges had just gifted our family with the most beautiful, wooden swing set! It had a two-story playhouse with a door that opened on hinges. It had swings, a slide, a rock-climbing wall, and a little picnic table, too. We were awed by the generosity of our dear friends, and all five kids couldn’t wait to enjoy their incredible new gift.
That night, our excitement was barely containable when my husband got home from work and we shared the good news. He was in the middle of a very stressful time in his job, and he said that he would not have time for building the swing set until Christmas break. After calling a number for assembly and realizing that it would cost an arm and a leg, I decided to take a look at the instruction manual. So, here I was standing beside the long boxes which held hundreds (or thousands) of pieces, and in my hand was a book (thicker than anything I had read since the birth of baby number three), detailing the countless steps necessary to assemble our amazing swing set. What was this mom to do?
Well, the rest of the story is too long to give in detail, but the bottom line is that the kids and I rolled up our sleeves and started with the easiest part first. Bit by bit, the swing set came together beautifully. And finally, with a little help from my brother, we had finished the assembly in about one week. The kids felt like they had won the lottery with their new backyard playground, and I was deeply moved by the generosity of the Georges. Then it hit me. This is the story of grace. As I look back upon it, this story of unthinkable generosity reminds me of John 1:16: “For of his fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.”
It’s really true. “Amazing grace…that saved a wretch like me.” God’s extravagant love has been poured out, and we are all the undeserving beneficiaries of his amazing gift of salvation. This unmerited gift of grace is released into our lives at baptism, and then we are left with a choice. Do we stand by admiring our salvation still wrapped up, or do we roll up our sleeves and begin to work out our salvation a little bit more each day? It takes a lifetime of unpacking, but without any effort on our part, we cannot enjoy the glorious adventure of life to the fullest.