Last Monday evening, I scored a free last-minute ticket to the first evening of Colour Conference. Four other girls and I squeezed ourselves into one car and braved city driving to get there.
It was an enjoyable night, listening to Bobbie Houston’s wisdom on everything from working in the field God’s planted you, to the hilarious dilemmas of wearing a new bra. I love that she keeps it real. Who hasn’t felt like you’re suffocating the first 15 times you strap your girls in to a new brassiere? (Sorry, any blokes reading this!)
A few hours later, it was time to face the truth of what it cost to leave our car so conveniently close by. No one paid much attention as we drove in, so we didn’t have a clue what it would set us back.
As we got to the front of the queue to pay, I was struck with sudden curiosity about the use of the word ‘grace’ on the ticket machine. I found myself contemplating the implications of it being there.
The carpark owners make an allowance for any of their patrons, regardless of who they are, to find their car and navigate their way to the exit. We were essentially given a guarantee, that within the 20-minute time frame, we couldn’t be penalised, or have any more asked of us, because the owners considered the debt we owed paid in full.
We paid, jumped in the car and looked for the way out. Signs and arrows pointed us in the right direction, we could hardly miss it. I think it took us all of two minutes to reach the boom gate, insert our ticket and off we went. You’d have to take some astonishing wrong turns for the grace period to end before you were out and on your way to your next destination.
What surprised and amused me most were the parallels between my experience in the parking station and living with faith.
When we enter this life, none of us have a clue what’s ahead. We don’t see the good and bad choices we’ll make along the way. Some are desperate to find the exit. The cost for how they’ve lived is overwhelming — too heavy to bear. Some never quite know where they’re going. They wonder what life could have been like if they had.
Just like the carpark refuses pre-payment, sometimes I wish I could know in advance what price tag will be attached to the risks I take in life; how my well-being, my marriage, my friends or children will be impacted by the things I say and do.
The good news is that both the grace and the grace period set by God for this life are astoundingly generous. Like the owner of the carpark, God places arrows and signs all around us to help guide the way. He wants us on the right path, living a life uncomplicated by wrong turns, right up until we reach our exit, whenever that might be.
Life is complex. It can feel hard to navigate. I know I’ve crashed a few times. Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in reverse, or going around and around in circles! We all make mistakes, but that’s why God’s grace period is so special.
It began before you were born, because he loved you before you drew your first breath. It never ends. His grace means there is no penalty on our shoulders when we realise we’ve gone the wrong way. Jesus has paid the price in full, even though we deserve to pay it ourselves. The Holy Spirit is always ready to guide us in the way we should go.
God only asks for us to bring the living, breathing vehicle he’s given us to travel this life in, to park it in his parking station. Everything after that will have enough arrows and signs to get us where we need to go, if you’ll trust him to point you in the right direction.