Grace Covered It All

One of the most influential people in my childhood was my grandfather.  Even though he has gone on to be with the Lord, memories of him and his love still impact my life.  My grandfather was a gentle, patient and solid man who was well loved and respected in the community.  He was the one to play catch with me, take me fishing and never miss a little league baseball game. I have no bad memories of my grandfather.  He never let me down and always lifted me up. I called him Pa because he thought names like Paw Paw, Pa Paw and Granddad sounded too old.  He was always young at heart.

When I was 15 years old, I was sitting with Pa on the porch swing at his house in Chattanooga, TN.  On that day, he reached into his front pocket and pulled out the keys to his blue Chevrolet Impala and handed them to me. He said, “Son I want you to learn to drive before you start driving on busy streets, so go out there and practice in the driveway”.  That was one of the happiest moments of my life.  I ran to the car like it was the shiniest car in town.  At that moment the “63” blue Chevrolet Impala was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. The truth is Pa had never washed that car the entire time he owned it.  I always wondered why it did not have any rust.  Later I realized that it had such a thick protective layer of dirt that water could not make it to the metal.

Well, I got into the car, turned on the ignition, stepped on the accelerator and a big cloud of black smoke came out of the tailpipe.  You see, Pa had never driven that car over 15 mph and it had plenty of soot in the exhaust system.  The only time we had a traffic jam on our little country road was when Pa took his daily trip to the Piggly Wiggly going 15 mph.

When I practiced in the driveway, I would back up 30 feet, pull forward 30 feet, back up 30 feet, pull forward 30 feet, back up 30 feet, and pull forward 30 feet. It may sound boring today, but for a 15 year old it was a blast. The driveway was 30 feet long and I used every inch. This was my whole world and I was in 15-year-old Heaven.  Pa even had a key to the car placed on a nail in the kitchen so I could use it anytime.  A few days later, I had my first accident in Pa’s car. I pulled it forward 35 feet and left a cedar tree sized dent in the front chrome bumper of the blue Chevrolet Impala!

I was scared to death, but I went and told Pa what had happened. He asked if I was OK.  I said yes but I have messed up your car and the cedar tree.  He said since your OK, everything is fine because it’s just a car and just a tree.  You’re what I care about.  So the slate was clean between my Pa and me like it always was.  His Grace sure did feel good.  He could have been angry but his love for me was greater than his love of his stuff.

Several days later, Pa and I were on the porch swing and we both had forgotten about the blue Chevrolet Impala.  We were laughing and having fun just like a grandfather and a grandson would do.  What would happen in the next few moments would turn all the joy to fear and bring all the attention back to my mistake.   Uncle Clayton came to visit and he parked his yellow Buick next to the blue Impala.   My Dad was working in Pa’s back yard and out of the corner of my eye I saw my Dad running up the hill to see his brother. Guess where they stopped to talk?  Yep, right in front of the blue Chevrolet Impala.  Guess what I was thinking?  If my dad sees the bumper I am going have my own bumper problem.  At that point in my life, I felt like Pa had an abundance of grace and my dad did not have a drop. I was so scared I was speechless.  I was petrified.  Without saying a word, Pa got up from the porch swing and it seemed that he ran to see his boys.  He got their attention and they watched him coming towards them.  At first, I did not understand what Pa was doing but then I realized he had me on his mind.  He knew what I was thinking.  He knew what I had done.  He knew what I was afraid of.  He knew what could happen.  With all of that, he did the most beautiful thing for me.  I watched in amazement and relief as Pa sat down on the bumper of the blue Chevrolet Impala.   He covered it all!

Grace is available and extended to us always.  It’s an attribute of God’s love.  We have it but can never fully understand it.  Throughout my lifetime, a few people have imparted Grace into my life and for those people and for those times, I am grateful.  Grace is always received by us but seldom given to others.  I have never seen a clearer example of grace than the day when Pa made the trip from the porch swing to the bumper for me.  His willingness to make that journey of love has always reminded me of Jesus, the one who would rather die than live without me.  The one who left heaven with me on His mind with a mission to cover it all.

2 Comments

  1. Lee H. Kresser

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    Phil, my maternal grandfather was just like your grandfather. Once, when I was 7, almost 53 years ago, I was doing an Olympic feat of balancing gardening tools that had been hung up on the garage wall in front of where he parked his 1950 Ford. I’d “Win the Gold” for lifting my little hand, palm up, to lift each rake, hoe, shovel, etc gently off each set of wood pegs, for a few seconds and place it back in place. One by one, I would go down that row. One day, I was performing, and a long handled hoe got out of balance somehow, and began tipping. It was too far away to get back on the pegs, and my little hand and arm were not strong enough to control it, and it fell on my head AND the grille of that 1950 Ford. It popped me pretty good, and dented the grille. My grandfather, who had been working in the garage at that time, heard the crash and whirled around and found me crying, the hoe against the grille, and asked if I was OK through my river of tears. When he removed the hoe, he AND I saw the dent at the same time. I did that to grandpa’s car!!!! Oh no!!! He was my hero, and I messed with the car he took me around riding in!! I knew I’d be banished. He stooped down and gave me the biggest hug I ever received. He said, “I am so glad you’re OK, Lee. You got quite a bump there. The car can be fixed. YOU are who I am concerned about. I forgive you because you didn’t mean it. I forgive you. Let’s go riding.” THAT DAY, I received earthly forgiveness. I didn’t know that 18 years later, I would accept Jesus Christ into my heart and life, and receive heavenly forgiveness from my Heavenly Father. 2 years later, he passed away, and my life crashed like the garden hoe did.

    Fast forward:
    1)I have that great man’s pocket sized red-letter New Testament that he received from his Sunday School teacher when HE accepted Christ on Christmas Day in 1909. I still look through it and see where he made notes. It is a treasure of immeasurable proportions.
    2) I still have that 1950 Ford that I dented the grille decades earlier. It has never left the family. When it came time to restore it, the chrome plating people told me that they could take the dent out. I said, “No, keep the dent in it and put new chrome over it.” They couldn’t understand, but it gave me a chance to present the gospel. It is still the largest gospel track I have seen, because it gives me an opportunity to tell people that story each time I am at an event with that old car.

    I could not hold back the tears while communicating this story. God is so good, He gave me my grandfather AND His pardon.

  2. Susan Voorhes

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    Although, I have heard this story numerous time in the past 16 years, I love it just the same! You are so much like Pa and have a true heart for the lost and hurting. You have been very instrumental in my life and taught me to pray and lean on Jesus! I love your ministry and have been so blessed to be a part of several things you have done over the years. Each time I get to be even the smallest part of your ministry I am reminded that God can use anyone and that I should care about the all with the love of Christ!