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Grace, Thanks, and Forgiveness: A Twenty-Five Year Reflection

Wow, has it really been that long? Twenty-five years. It’s interesting to sit here and ponder the significance of that span of time. As a child, twenty-five years seems like a lifetime. It’s hard to fathom how we’re going to make it to our next birthday or Christmas season, twenty-five years might as well be a millennia away. 

But as an adult, twenty-five years is just a blink of an eye. If you have grown children (which I don’t) or have been married that long (again, short of that mark by about ten years), you know exactly what I mean. But this morning, I think back to twenty-five years, and I can still tell you about that day. You might be lost, and that’s okay. I hope you’ll take time to read my story. It’s one I love to tell. Not because of me or anything I did, but because of what God has done and continues to do to this day.

February 26, 1999. Third grade class with Mrs. Treece. That morning's journal entry topic was what animal we hoped we would see at the petting zoo that day. That afternoon, we went to the school’s petting zoo. It was an early out. I needed a haircut, and did not want to go. Dad enticed me with promises of going to the movies afterward. I can still hear the hum of the truck going down the highway. I can feel the bumps on the back roads going to Clarksdale. Dad is in the seat next to me, reciting the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence.” I feel a bump on the back of the truck. I look out the window. I see the green grass. Then, nothing. Blackness. I never lost consciousness, but I only remember bits and pieces of the next three days. 

It’s amazing what being rear-ended by a drunk driver can do to a truck after hitting a tree. Even more so, to a nine year old boy. And no, I’m not talking about the fractured skull. I’m not talking about the crushed sinus, the torn off eyelid, the stroke that happened the first night in the hospital, or losing half of the blood in my body. Those things happened, but that’s not the point of this story. What that event did to the life of a nine year old boy, is it saved my life. 

I’m stubborn by nature. Maybe I get it from my dad (sorry, not sorry dad). I’m strong willed. It’s not easy to sway me to change my mind. But through that event, God showed me that He has purpose for my life,  that there was no earthly reason I should still be alive. I knew what sin was. I knew who Jesus was. My parents had taught me all the things necessary for the belief of salvation. But I wouldn’t surrender. But God got my attention. I knew He wanted to use me for His glory. But I needed to surrender. I needed to place my faith and trust in Him. I needed a Savior, and I needed to be forgiven of my sins. And shortly after the wreck, I placed my faith in Jesus Christ.

My oldest daughter turns nine next month. I think that’s hitting me harder because nine was such a life changing year for me. After twenty-five years of life after the wreck, there are three primary things I have learned that I hope I can teach my children, and maybe you can catch on as well. They center around three words: Grace, Thanks, and Forgiveness.

  1. Recognize the Everyday Grace God Shows

To the everyday average person walking down the street, my story would be one of anger and sorrow. But I have come to recognize that twenty-five years ago is actually a day of grace. 

I love the story of Jonah. It’s a constant reminder of God’s grace and patience. Jonah, God’s messenger, refuses to go to Nineveh to share God’s message. Why? He is blinded by hatred. They don’t deserve God’s forgiveness. So as he flees to Tarshish, God sends a great storm, and after finally confessing that it is due to his disobedience, they throw Jonah overboard. Jonah has disobeyed God. He isn’t even willing to repent and go to Nineveh. He deserves to die to the creatures of the sea, or be drowned by it’s waters. So what happens?

The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. -Jonah 1:17

God showed Jonah grace. How? By causing a great fish to swallow him and keep him protected for three days. It probably wasn’t the grace Jonah would have expected or liked, but it was grace nonetheless.

I don’t know what you’re walking through. I don’t know what dwells in your hearts or what lies ahead in your future. But I know this: God is at work. If you trust Him, place your faith in Him, surrender to Him, He won’t quit working in you and on you until you reach Him on the other side of eternity. Maybe what you’re experiencing, though it be painful, uncomfortable, or smell like the inside of a fish, is God showing you grace. 

  1. Give Thanks in All Things

I’ve had a lot of great days since my wreck. I’ve also had a lot of days that have been hard. But I know from first hand experience that you and I are not guaranteed our next breath. So what ought we to do with every breath we have?

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.

His faithful love endures forever.

-Psalm 136:1

Our circumstances may not be good. Our situations may not be good. Our finances, relationships, health, family, or life in general may not be good. But God is good, always. And if He is good, and He is at work, then the work He is doing is good. His faithful love endures forever. So, give thanks. 

  1. Be Quick to Forgive

Maybe it was because I was just a nine year old boy, but I never harbored any anger at the individual who caused the wreck. I have forgiven him, and pray for him frequently. And if you ask how can I forgive him, how can I not be angry at him, scripture makes it very clear. 

Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.

Colossians 3:12-13

Even if you want to say this is speaking of within the church, the truth is still the truth. In Christ, I have been forgiven much. I deserve death. I deserve hell and eternal damnation. I deserve to be left and abandoned by God. But He extends mercy and grace. He offers a better way. He sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins and mine so that we may have eternal life.

Now to be clear, this is not to say that when someone has broken a law in sin that there should not be action taken. Forgiveness of sin does not necessarily remove the consequence of sin. But when we consider how great a debt has been forgiven for us by the sacrifice of God's Son, how can we not forgive those who have wronged or hurt us? 

In these twenty-five years of reflection, God has been so good to me. I have a beautiful wife who loves me better than I deserve. I have children who light up the room with their joy. I have a wonderful support system of family and friends. I have one of the greatest jobs on earth with some of the greatest people. And to top all of that, I have a God who desires a relationship with me, and Jesus who thought I was worth dying for. So this morning, as I sit and sip on my coffee, I’ll choose to reflect on the twenty-five years of grace, thanks, and forgiveness I’ve experienced. I hope maybe you will, in your own life, too. 

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, announcing the mystery of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. -1 Corinthians 2:1-2


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