Grace, A Children’s Story

It was a week before Christmas and Amy and her mommy had just finished visiting some newly born puppies at a friend’s house. The puppies were so small, but were practically bursting with energy. One in particular had caught Amy’s eye: a beautiful black Yorkshire terrier who always had its tongue out, ready to kiss at the slightest human touch. Amy had held it close, even as it squirmed to lick her face, and had fallen in love. “If he were mine, I would name him Kisses, because that is what he loves to do,” she had said. Amy’s mommy loved the puppy too, but knew that Daddy would take more convincing.

“Daddy, I want a puppy,” Amy declared at dinner that night.
“You’re too young to have a puppy of your own, honey.” Daddy said, as if he had had this conversation hundreds of times before.
“Nu-uh, I would take care of it all by myself. I would Daddy!”
“Mommy and I will talk about it later,” he said and Amy knew not to say anything more. She did, however, look imploringly at her mother, hoping maybe this time her daddy could be convinced.

Later that night when Amy was in bed asleep, her mommy and daddy decided to have a talk. “Maybe it is time to get a puppy, Bill,” Amy’s mommy said. “They were so cute, I wouldn’t mind having one myself!”
“But Amy needs to learn responsibility. If it were to be her puppy, she would have to take care of it. I don’t want to have to always be the one taking it out or feeding it or paying all the vet’s bills.”
Amy’s daddy was trying to teach her how to be a responsible person and he knew this would be an excellent way for her to learn, but he wanted to make sure she would take it seriously. “Maybe I’ll write up a contract that we could have her sign. It could list all the tasks that she would need to do in order to get and keep the puppy.” Amy’s mommy looked at him skeptically.

A couple days later, Amy and her parents sat in the family room to talk about the puppy. Amy was so excited and it burst out as smiles and laughter. Maybe she would finally get the puppy! Maybe tomorrow she and little Kisses would be playing together on the floor of this very room!
“Amy, I know how much you’ve been wanting to have a puppy, and your mother and I think you may finally be ready to take care of one. But before you get too excited,” Amy’s daddy added quickly as he saw his daughter giggling in her chair, “you must agree to some chores that I have already written down. We will talk about them now, and then if you agree, you can sign this paper.”
Although she was still excited at the prospect of a new puppy, Amy’s smile faded a bit. She was confused by what her daddy was saying to her, but could tell that he was very serious.
“Number one, you must train the dog to only go potty outside and clean up any mistakes he might make around the house. Number two, you must give the dog a bath at least once a week. Number three, you will pay for one-half of all doctor’s visits including any medication the dog may need.”
Amy sat listening as the list went on and on and her heart sank. Her daddy had compiled a list of chores so very long she knew she would never be able to accomplish them all. There was still one hope. If she could just get the puppy in the house, maybe her daddy would forget about the list and allow it to stay anyway. But suddenly her daddy read the last sentence of the contract.
“If Amy is not willing or able to accomplish all the above chores, then the puppy will be sold or given away, and will not be allowed to stay in the house any longer!”

At this, Amy knew her desire would not be fulfilled. She would not get the puppy and Kisses would find a different home. Soon tears flooded her eyes, and she began to cry. Her daddy looked startled, but she managed to explain. “Daddy,” Amy sobbed, with tears pouring down her cheeks, “I can’t sign that list. I’d never be able to do all those chores!” With that, she ran out of the room, and headed for her bed.
Amy’s mommy and daddy looked at each other. Her daddy looked shocked at his daughter’s response. “I thought for sure she would sign it. I thought she’d sign it without thinking and we’d have to give the puppy away. I thought it would be a valuable tool for teaching responsibility.”
“Well, maybe you didn’t give your daughter enough credit,” said Amy’s mommy knowingly as she left to go comfort her daughter.

That night Amy’s daddy could not sleep. He kept picturing his little girl crying from something he had done. But the worst part was that he knew she had acted more responsibly than he had given her credit for. How could he fix this? He wondered. He wanted so much for his little girl to be happy, but he wanted her to understand his actions. Suddenly, he had an idea. The more he thought about the idea, the more he liked it. But in order for it to work, he had to get up right now and prepare. So he climbed out of bed, and got to work.

On Christmas Eve, Amy woke up early. It wasn’t because she had gone to bed so early the night before. And it wasn’t because she had fallen asleep crying over her lost puppy. It was because she heard a small knocking on the door. “Amy, wake up. Daddy wants to show you something,” came her mommy’s voice from behind the door.
Crawling out of her bed, she took her mommy’s hand and was led downstairs to the Christmas tree. Stapled to the wall, Amy recognized the contract her daddy had written, and a sign above it that said “The Law” in large, bold letters. Next to that was another sign that said “Grace.” Amy looked below the sign and saw a tiny ornament that looked like a puppy. The puppy had a sign on it as well. It said “Kisses.” Amy could feel the excitement coming back, but she was confused. “What does it mean, Daddy?”
“Come to me,” her daddy said, lifting her up to his lap. “Before Jesus came to earth, people who loved Him had to abide by every rule that He asked them to. It was quite clear to the people that they could not keep every single rule. It was just impossible for them. But when Jesus came to earth, everything changed. Because He came and took all of our sins and failures upon Himself, we did not need to follow every single rule anymore. In other words, we now live under grace. Under grace, we love Jesus joyfully, knowing that He freed us from our burdens so that we can enjoy everything He has given to us. That contract I wanted you to sign was like the Law that Jesus gave to his people. But we do not live under the Law anymore. Because of Jesus, we live under grace.”
“But daddy, what does it mean to live under grace?” Amy asked.
“It means,” her daddy paused and smiled at his daughter. “It means,” he said again, “we are getting a puppy.”

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~ by Amy on January 17, 2007.

7 Responses to “Grace, A Children’s Story”

  1. I love this story!

  2. What a wonderful story! You have a very wise daddy and mommy. Thanks for sharing it.

    Mom W.

  3. The story is nice and I appreciate your intention. However, I cannot agree with some points you made.
    The father taught his daughter that before Jesus came, He asked people to follow all his rules, but the people could not keep them because it was impossible.
    To me it sounds like you are picturing an unfair old testament God, with crazy rules and demands… Are you saying the God in the new testament is different from God in the New Testament?
    Do you remember a Bible text that says that God does not change?
    From what I remember, the people could not follow what the Pharisee’s imposed on God’s commands, not what God had actually asked.
    Jesus says he did not come to abolish the law (Matthew 5 – He talks about the moral law, the 10 commandments, not the temporary mosaic laws, or shadows). So, how come you say after Jesus came everything changed? Isn’t He the same working toward the salvation of humans since Adam and Eve? Isn’t He the same that blessed Abraham by faith and by grace? Yes, He is the One and only and will never change.
    Well, the Bible teaches the law is still here, for if it wasn’t there would be no sin. The law is what points our sin and our need for a Redeemer.
    Are you saying that because of grace I don’t have to follow God’s commands? Like, am I allowed to kill now? What about stealing? Can I worship any other God? Is it okay for me to do any work in the Sabbath?
    God is Just and He will never expect anything from us that we can’t do. All He asks from us is for our own happiness.
    Grace saves me from the curse of the law. Grace is the only solution. Grace transforms my life. And because my life is changed, because of grace, I follow God’s commands, I follow His will in my life.

    Titus 2:11-14
    For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.

  4. I like the story too but i am not quite comfortable by the teaching that Grace erased obedience (the law). Christ says until heaven and earth pass, not even a jot shall fall from this law. I believe Christ came to help us abide to the law (it is not i that lives but Christ in me). In other words, if Christ be in me, then the law is not a burden but a delight.

  5. Thanks for your comment! I know the story doesn’t cover the entire issue of the law vs. grace, but it’s just how my dad first introduced grace to me and I’ll never forget it. As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized not everything is as black and white as you think it is when you are a child, but I always remember this first introduction to God’s grace as enough to help me love HIm more. I wrote the story so that I have a way to introduce God’s grace to my daughter when she’s too young to understand more (and really, we’ll probably never understand grace fully until we reach heaven!).

  6. […] a couple months! (In the meantime, you can read the children’s story that I wrote for Audrey here. When I say I want to finish it, I mean finish the illustrations I’ve been working on for […]

  7. I’d like to make three comments on some of the reactions to Amy’s story “Grace” – a story to teach a young child the conception of redemption. Readers correctly find flaws in the story because Amy’s rendition makes it sound like God just decides to ignore the Law rather than provide a propitiation for it.

    The first of my comments is that the fact that no analogy will fully capture the ineffably rich subtlety of redemption is a fact that is recognized in Scripture. The second is to note that despite the inadequacy of our tools, we nevertheless teach spiritual lessons and use means appropriate for our students. The third may be a corollary of the first two: the inerrancy of the transition of our lessons over time cannot be achieved; after all, even our notion of the inerrancy of Scripture is respect to the original texts.

    In Romans 5-8 — a treatise many regard as the definitive statement on redemption – St Paul uses the theological terms justification, sanctification and glorification to explain redemption. Yet when he attempts to analogize those lessons, he refers to them in I Corinthians 3.2 simply as “milk” because as he says, the recipients of that particular letter “were not yet ready for [solid food]”. The writer of Hebrews makes a similar point in Hebrews 5:12-13, where someone “not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness” is fed milk, not “solid food”. Yet Peter, in addressing spiritual milk-drinkers, in I Peter 2.2 suggests drinking spiritual milk is the natural and acceptable way to “grow up in [their] salvation”.

    It would seem pedantic, therefore, to base criticisms of Amy’s story “Grace” on the fact that the central analogy is flawed and / or incomplete. Of course it is, but explaining profound concepts gradually, starting with simpler explanations and moving to more complete descriptions once the student is mature is a method that biblical writers cited seem to condone and encourage.

    Also, while my reference to the inerrancy of original Scripture is a bit tongue-in-cheek, there is a serious point. Here I must reveal that I am Amy’s father — the foolish man who got himself into a bind that no parents wish upon themselves. In fact, unless my recollection is flawed (a distinct possibility), the resolution of the story was not simply that we would get the puppy. This resolution – and here I agree with one of the commenters — makes it sound like God just says with respect to humankind’s inability to keep the Law, “Oh, just forget it, I’ll allow you into My presence for eternity anyway”.

    What in fact I said to Amy in resolving this crisis is that the rules regarding the puppy must be followed as I (the rulemaker) had said, but “Mommy and Daddy will help you keep the rules”. While this approach could have been used to teach sanctification, that subject would have been too complicated for a young child to grasp, and it completely obscures the role of justification. To better capture the latter truth, the story would have had to include something about Mommy and Daddy sending to Amy someone who paid the consequences for not keeping the rules and then help Amy begin keeping the rules over time as she got older (albeit never perfectly). But, as analogies inevitably do, the story would have descended into nonsense if it had to bear the fullness of that pedagogical burden.

    It is admittedly silly (and another flawed analogy) to compare Amy’s current rendition of a long-ago experience to the majestic superintendence of God’s Word from ages past to now. But here’s the more serious point: Not seeing the benefits of inerrancy stopping with the original texts, some today have rejected the objective of developing the spiritual part of their lives, despite the fact that questions of inerrancy revolve solely around non-essential matters — a vast and tragic reaction. Just so, if readers of Amy’s story reject the idea of using simple analogies to teach their children the basics of the Christian Gospel, that is a bigger tragedy than the fact that the analogies are a flawed means of doing so.

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