John, the backdoor glass is broken. I'll explain when we get home.

My wife's note lay on the bar when I came home. Around the corner, an outer layer of our double-paned glass lay shattered like cracked ice—beautiful, actually, and a problem.

I calmed down before my wife soon returned with our four-year-old son and one-year-old daughter. My son, it turned out, was excited about going to the park. In letting the dog out, in spite of repeated warnings, when he slammed the back door, the glass broke.

As my four-year-old approached me, I pondered. Get angry? Yell? Ground him for five years? Then something came to me. You could say it was divinely inspired, or that I felt compassion. I envisioned myself approaching God after a sin I'd committed for the umpteenth time.

Parenthood has changed my perspective on being God's child. I newly understand God's grace and unconditional love. Some sins I battle weekly, if not daily: slander, arrogance, lust, etc. Often I feel like a failed child repenting to my father, "Can you possibly forgive this one again?"

But increasing capacity to love and forgive also widens my glimpse of God's love for me. Even amidst anger and disappointment, I have compassion for my children. If I can forgive my son, how much does God receive my repentant heart and tell me He loves me?

On the day of the broken door glass, I asked my son to tell me what happened. Hearing his repentant heart, I had mercy and hugged him. I reminded him that this is why we tell him not to slam the door. I told him we had planned to buy him a video that day, but that money must now help pay for the door's new window. (Needless to say, the window would cost much more than a video!) My son experienced the consequences of his mistake.

Jesus compared his father to earthly fathers: "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matt. 7:11 NIV). Thank you, God, for loving me even more than I love my son.

Questions for discussion

• If you are a parent, discuss and compare your capacity to forgive your children with your perception of God's capacity to forgive you.

• What is the difference between the words justice, mercy, forgiveness, and grace?
John is the Executive Director of the Good Samaritan Center, a charitable medical clinic in Fredericksburg, Tex. where he lives with his wife and two children. John has been sending out his Emails...
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