In high school, I worked at a Burger Chef where we loved our evening manager, Steve Shelton. He taught, challenged, and affirmed us. At times we (the evening crew) made his life difficult doing things we thought were fun.
One evening during a frisbee promotion when Steve was off for the evening, when our shift ended, we took a case of frisbees to the nearby home of a co-worker and filled his lawn with orange Burger Chef frisbees. The next day, his father went to see the store manager with a trash bag full of frisbees, claiming he woke up to an orange lawn. I don’t think the dad appreciated our humor. When we came in to work that evening, the store manager asked us if we had any idea how all those frisbees could have possibly made it on the front lawn of the worker. Not surprisingly, we responded we had no idea. He said, “I should fire all of you. Don’t ever do this again. Now, get back to work.”
Another time, the night before Steve came back from a week of vacation, we purchased yellow and black spray paint, along with a stencil. To show our love for Steve, we painted the concrete parking block in front (where the store manager always parked), yellow, and using the stencil with black paint we painted the words “Reserved for C.S. Shelton”. When Steve came to work the next evening, he got us all together and said, “Are you guys trying to get me fired? I should fire all of you before he fires me.”
Thankfully neither the store manager nor Steve ever fired us. We were young, also not very bright, and our attempts at humor were clearly not appreciated. They both accepted we were kids and deserved another chance. They believed in the concept of grace, giving us undeserved favor in not firing us (they could have) and another chance.
Keith told me of an incident at the end of his career, when he was in his early 60’s, one he wasn’t proud of. It was significant for his family and could have impacted his future. He had faithfully worked for many years in the maintenance department of his company. It was a steady job that allowed him to provide for his wife and children. Even more special was the company had a retirement plan and for the first time in his life, he was able to participate. At lunch, on a hot day, working in a remote area of the property, a co-worker opened a beer and offered him one. Keith accepted. The co-worker ended up drinking multiple beers and his supervisor confronted him about being intoxicated. Then he found Keith and asked, “Did you have a beer?” Keith paused, realizing the potential gravity of his mistake but also wanting to be honest, said, “Yes, one.” His supervisor said, “Clock out and go home.”
Keith wasn’t fired, but he could have been. His supervisor weighed Keith’s contributions over the years against one mistake. He showed grace in giving him a second chance and Keith responded in making the most of the chance.
How often do we provide grace to others? How often do we give others a break they don’t deserve and a “second chance” to redeem themselves?
If you’re like me, not often enough.
We often forget that God chose to shower us with Grace and Mercy instead of what we deserved. Knowing this, let’s lean toward giving others a break and a second chance.
In fact, God treats us with even greater kindness, just as the Scriptures say, “God opposes everyone who is proud, but he blesses all who are humble with undeserved grace.” James 4:6 (CEV)