Jack stood before his father, nervously switching his weight from foot to foot, watching and wondering what would happen next. Only hours before, all was well in his world. It wasn't Fort Lauderdale or Cancun, but the beach party had been a success, even though Lake Ontario's southern beaches consisted of softball-sized stones instead of sand, and in late Fall, it was chilly enough that the bonfire was a welcome ending to the evening. Earlier, Jack piloted his father's boat, towing those hardy enough to brave the 42 degree water. A few of the guys, Jack included, tried to swim, but the limbs stiffen up quickly in those conditions.
About 11:00, the beach closed, so it was time to haul the boat out of the water and head for home. It was then that Jack noticed something was wrong. Expensively wrong. The toolbox in the back of the station wagon was not in fact, in the back of the station wagon. Forty years ago, it wasn't uncommon to leave one's vehicle unlocked, and someone had stealthily escorted the box with its hundreds of dollars worth of tools to a new dance partner. Although the car was full of happy teenagers enjoying the moment, Jack drove home in silence. Not relishing telling his father about the missing tools, his mind was sorting through possible scenarios, none of which was particularly appealing.
And now he stood, silent, waiting. His father was silent, too. Too silent, Jack thought. The look on his father's face was not anger, but sadness; disappointment, perhaps, but not anger. Finally, his father stood, and without a word, walked out of the room. "I wish he would hit me," Jack thought. But he didn't. He just turned, and went to bed.
The incident was never again mentioned. The next morning, it was as if it had never happened. There were no repercussions, no belated punishment. Nothing. Jack's father simply swallowed the loss in his love for his son.
In case you haven't guessed, Jack is not his real name. When he was born eighteen years earlier, his parents named him Jim, and I have never forgotten that look on my father's face, nor his taking that loss upon himself when he had every reason to make me pay for my carelessness. This morning as I was reading the Scripture lesson for today, all these memories came flooding back. "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love." (John 15:9-10). In his epistle, John writes, "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." (1 John 3:1). I learned of my heavenly Father's love standing before my earthly father, guilty, but at great cost to himself forgiven and set free. I am forever grateful for that love which revealed an even greater love to a wayward son in need of forgiveness.