With the exception of two years my family spent in Arizona, I lived the first eighteen years of my life in a great house in Denton, Texas.
One time, as a child, I was playing in our neighbor’s yard. There was a piece of property in our neighbor’s yard that really fascinated me and I was playing around it.
My father noticed I was playing in the neighbor’s yard and called me back to his side. He said “David, I don’t want you playing in the neighbor’s yard as it is not yours, and I don’t want you playing around that piece of property.”
When I asked “Why?” he responded, “First, it does not belong to you. Second, if you were to topple it or damage it you would not have the means of repairing or replacing it. And third, if you toppled it you could injure yourself very seriously. Do you understand?”
I nodded and agreed.
Well, like most young boys bursting with curiosity and a sense of adventure, I was back in my neighbor’s yard playing with this particular property. Sure enough, I toppled it and it came crashing down.
The neighbor came out and when he had seen what I had destroyed, he firmly took me by the hand and led me back to my house and to my father. In the span of a few minutes, the neighbor had revealed to my father what I had done—I had been accused. My father walked over to the neighbor’s yard and confirmed the property had indeed been toppled.
“David, did you topple this?” he asked.
“Yes,” I nodded, ashamed.
“Go to your room,” my father said. Straightaway I went to my room where my young imagination began to spin the worst possible punishments that would surely be forthcoming.
After about thirty minutes my father opened my door and entered. I could tell he wasn’t happy. “David, I told you not to go into the neighbor’s yard. Further, I told you not to play on his property. Why did you disobey me?”
I didn’t answer so he asked again. I finally admitted I was curious, but did not mean to topple the neighbor’s property.
“David, as your father I am very disappointed and angry with you,” he said sternly. “I told you not to go into the neighbor’s yard. I told you this not just to protect our neighbor’s property, but more importantly, to protect you. Did I not explain it to you very clearly?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Then why did you disobey me?”
I couldn’t answer.
“I see,” he said. “You will remain here in your room. I will return in one hour at which time you will explain to me how to plan to repay our neighbor for the damage you did to his property. David, you have done something wrong and it is up to you to make it right—this is my standard of right and wrong.”
Sure enough, my father stood up, left the room and closed the door.
For that hour my imagination was spinning through one idea after another. In the beginning I thought I could sell all my comic books and use that money to pay for the damages. Then I thought maybe I could wash the neighbor’s car or mow his lawn all summer to pay for it. One idea after another ricocheted through my little brain until, in what seemed like no time at all, and hour had passed.
My father opened the door and came in.
“Well, what have you decided, David? How do you plan to repay our neighbor for the property you destroyed?”
I sat there, almost on the verge of tears and trying not to tremble, unable to find anything remotely in my possession that would equal the value of our neighbor’s property.
“May I make a suggestion?” he asked.
I nodded enthusiastically.
“You could replace the property you destroyed with a similar property you yourself own.”
That really didn’t help.
“Do you own a similar object to the one you destroyed?” he asked.
I didn’t and he knew I didn’t. I shook my head.
“I see. Well, you could pay him the hundreds of dollars it will take to replace his property,” he proposed. “Do you have the $300 dollars it will require to recompense our neighbor?”
I hung my head low. I didn’t.
“I see,” he said. “Unfortunately, I cannot let this pass. As your father I am afraid I cannot help you—”
I sat there devastated, choking back tears.
“So I will help you as your daddy,” he promised.
I perked up, not sure what he meant.
“David, I will give you the $300 out of my resources to pay your debt to our neighbor, your accuser. You see, David, you’ve gotten yourself in quite a fix. You disobeyed and now you have incurred a debt you cannot pay—so I will pay it for you because I love you.”
He led me out of my room into his bedroom. In his nightstand my dad always kept some emergency cash, usually between $500-$1,000. This was his “just in case” money. He made me write a letter to our neighbor apologizing for trespassing into his yard and destroying his property. He gave me the $300 and told me to put in an envelope and write our neighbor’s name on the front.
All of this I did.
Then, my dad walked me over to the neighbor where I offered him the letter, followed by the cash. The neighbor read the letter and nodded approvingly. I then apologized to the neighbor and promised I would never do it again. He accepted my apology with a half-smile and told me he appreciated me standing up to the consequences of my actions.
Then my dad said, “David, I want you to go your room for the rest of the evening.”
I obeyed and went back to my room, weighing the matter in my mind and in my heart. Basically, I was in bedroom-jail.
About forty-five minutes later my dad opened the door to my room and entered with two hamburgers on two plates.
I have to say I was a bit confused.
He sat down next to me and said “You did the right thing: not in disobeying the first time, but in letting me help you the second time. Because you disobeyed me as father, I had to rescue you as daddy.”
I thought about it a little bit. He watched as I tried to work it out in my brain.
“Do you understand?” he asked.
“Kinda,” I said sheepishly. “Which are you now?”
He handed me one of the hamburgers. “Now I am your friend.”
We hugged and he kissed me. And for that evening, that same man who had sentenced me to the prison of my own bedroom, entered into that same prison, kept me company and fed me hamburgers.
We played all night. And the joy of it turned my small prison cell into room of laughter.
This is the Trinity.
God the Father (the justice of God) has a standard you and I can longer attain. Disenfranchised by our progenitors, each of us owes a debt we can never pay. Each of us has experienced anger, hatred, malice, envy, pettiness and selfishness. We have lied, cheated, stolen, exaggerated, misrepresented, and injured others emotionally, financially and sometimes physically. Many of us have raped, killed and extorted. One but needs look at the world to recognize original sin is real. It infects each of us.
God the Son (the love of God) has come down to our level, inhabited our injuries, and took upon Himself the pain and punishment of our trespasses that separate us from the Father. All the punishment that should have been put on us has been put on Him. And in the exchange, the very perfections of God Himself are accounted to us. All that remains of our dead selves are our physical bodies and they are sloughing off us a little bit, year after year.
God the Holy Spirit (the peace of God) is the joy that rushes into us and transforms us when we are reconnected with our spiritual parent. We are reinstated in full good standing with the Father. When God looks at you He sees Jesus in you, thus “as Christ is so are we in this world.” You are a miracle-worker, an ambassador to call everyone else back to their true selves.
“Well, if God loves me so much why doesn’t He just forgive me?”
He did—2,000 years ago.
Every man who ever lived has had his name written in God’s living ledger—believer and unbeliever alike. You are saved as a default.
Your name only gets blotted out if you—and you alone—reject His offer to save you.
You see, even salvation is a gift of peace.
It will not be forced on you.
I learned all this over hamburgers.