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Father and Son Hugging

Surprised by Mercy

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The year was 1974. I was 16 years old with a brand new driver’s license. My first car was a gift from my father, and I was driving to visit a friend who lived in the next county. I was scanning my hand-written directions as I wound my way through the woods and hills of rural Alabama. I only took my eyes off the road for a few seconds, but in a heartbeat the car was airborne. I sailed across a ravine to slam into the side of a hill. I was jarred, but uninjured. The car, however, was silent and unresponsive.

This all happened long before the era of cell phones, so I started walking until I found a secluded farmhouse where a friendly family lent me their phone to call my Dad. 

“Are you alright, son?”  he asked. 

I assured him I was fine, but the car didn’t look so good. He told me to wait where I was. He was on his way. Those long minutes waiting for his arrival were filled with visions of retribution. I had no excuse for the disaster. I deserved to be punished and sentenced to live out my teenage years with no access to an automobile.

When he arrived, I took him to the wrecked car and showed him the damage. The car was totaled. There was no hope for repair. 

“Where were you going?” he asked.

I told him the whole story, including my failure to focus on the road while reading my directions. I was broken and dejected as I waited for sentencing. Then my Dad did an amazing thing. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the keys to his car. He held them out to me and said, “Take my car and go visit your friend. I’ll take care of this.” 

In that moment, my perspective on Dad changed forever. I deserved his anger, but he gave me mercy. Instead of prohibiting access to a car, he gave me his own keys.

This all happened a lifetime ago, but his response still colors my life. He taught me that mercy really can triumph over judgment. He taught me that my Father could provide grace in a day of trouble, even when I caused all the trouble myself!

This perspective on my earthly Father gave me a clearer understanding of my Heavenly Father. I have taken many wrong turns over the years. I have occasionally rebelled against God’s desires and destroyed beautiful things he gave me. But there has never been a day when his boundless love couldn’t cover me.

"The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love." ( NIV)

Maybe you’ve made mistakes. Maybe your own bad decisions and actions have taken you to a dark place... but you are not in a hopeless place. Run to the Father with all your mistakes and failures. A heart of true repentance unlocks the throne room of God’s grace. He is slow to anger and rich in love. His mercies are new every morning!

"Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." ( NIV)

Copyright © 2020 Tim Abel, used with permission

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About The Author


Tim Abel has been happily married to Terri since 1984. He is the father of 4 amazing children, who have provided several awesome grandchildren. He holds a PhD in communication and a BA in music. He served as a worship leader for over 30 years. In 2010, Tim joined the CBN team where he now works as a Campaign Manager with CBN’s Digital Optimization Center. He also enjoys playing keyboards for weekly worship services at Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Va.

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