A-boat Mercy

“It’s the boats!”

On a walk with my mother along the Oceanside pier just a few days ago, we saw “the boats.” I knew exactly which boats she meant as she pointed them out: the boats which taught me mercy.

You see, when I was about three years old, my family vacationed along this exact stretch of California coastline. I remember it vividly. Perhaps it is even my earliest memory. In any case, it had been a long day of driving and playing at the beach, and my dad promised me that if I was very good, he would take me to look at all the boats in the harbour once my brother went to bed.

Well, as is the way with one-year-olds, my brother did not go to bed as early as I’d hoped. And, as is the way with three-year-olds, I was more than a little tired and more than a little cranky. As I already had the vocabulary of a well-filtered sailor (that is, I could speak in full sentences but was ignorant of “bad words”), I sassed back to my parents and was promptly sent to bed.

My dad, sympathetic to the thwarted hopes of an overtired (if much-too-outspoken) three-year-old, came to get me after I’d finished being angry. He took me to see the boats after all.

Now, I have always been stubborn. I have always, admittedly, preferred cold justice to gentle forgiveness. And yet, I believe that mercy cuts deeper than justice ever could. Even back then, I felt my father’s kindness more keenly than his anger; it is possibly more convicting to be permitted what we do not deserve than to be punished for what we do.

We looked at the boats for a while and I thought with all my might, trying to make sense of what had happened. Finally, I came to my first real theological conclusion:

“Dad,” I said, seriously, “You showed me mercy.”

This, my earliest memory, is also my first memory of the Gospel. I understood at three years old that I had been shown mercy and grace, for I did not get what I deserved. Instead, I got to go see the boats.

It is funny to look at the boats now. I laughed to myself as I ran past them this morning, twenty years later. Taking a cranky toddler go to look at the boats seems such a small thing. And yet, it meant everything. In that simple moment, with childlike clarity, I first understood the mercy of a good father.

3 comments

  1. Thank you Ryanne for sharing this time in your life…I’m unable to express what it meant to me when I first read it yesterday. Even again in the middle of the night, thinking of it again.
    God I thank You for Ryanne… for her witness, her love for You, her faith in You and faithfulness to You.
    Thank You God for giving her the wisdom to understand Your grace and mercy and the Gospel at such a young age. I think of all the other young children all over the world…Do it again…and again…and again…
    I also thank you for her earthly father and the wisdom you gave him to teach her and show her these truths.
    And then I think of all the other fathers in the world…Do it again…and again…and again…
    I pray this in the name of Jesus. Please…do it again.

    Like

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