One of the stories my family likes to tell on me is the Crotchety Old Man on the Bike Path incident. You might hear various renditions and or embellishments depending on the source, but the basic version goes like this:
The five of us were taking a family bike ride along the Mississippi River, with our 70-pound dog in tow in the baby Burley. (I realize this is not normal.) About halfway into our ride, we approached a clearing that looked like the perfect spot to skip rocks and let the dog out for a swim. There were houses on one side of the bike path, which we steered clear of, but the land on the river-side of the path appeared to be common property.
That’s where we were dreadfully wrong.
As soon as we hopped off our bikes and headed toward the river, an older man came storming out of his house. “Git off my property!” he shouted. He laid into us, one by one, ranting about trespassers and threatening to call the police. Then he got right up in my face. “If I came over to your house and started walking on your lawn,” he shouted, “what would you do?”
I blinked and, without thinking, replied, “Well, we’d probably invite you over for dinner.”
I’m not sure who was more surprised—Mr. Crotchety Old Man or me. But all at once, the anger spewing out of him dissipated. On his way back to the house, he looked over his shoulder. “There’s a park thatta way,” he said, pointing.
One of the most surprising things about grace, I’m learning, is its reciprocal nature. When you’ve been graced yourself, that grace has a tendency to overflow onto someone else.
David had experienced truckloads of unwarranted favor from God over the course of his life. He started out as a nobody—a poor shepherd with no future to speak of. Yet he was the one God chose to anoint as king; his was the family God chose for the lineage of the Messiah.
For all his royalty and stardom, David never forgot where he came from. Here’s his response to the covenant promise the Lord made to him:
Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, Sovereign Lord, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty!
—2 Samuel 7:18-19
It doesn’t seem coincidental that just a couple of chapters later we see David taking the grace that was poured out on him and sharing it with the one person everyone else thought should have received his wrath.
The former king, Saul, had spent much of his reign been trying to kill David, running him out of the country, and generally making his life miserable. Yet after Saul died, David went out of his way to find his enemy’s one living descendant—not to seek revenge, but to show him kindness for the sake of his friend Jonathan.
From that time on, Mephibosheth ate regularly at David’s table, like one of the king’s own sons.
—2 Samuel 9:11
David showed Saul’s grandson Mephibosheth the ultimate grace: he invited him to dinner.
May there always be room at our table for the grandsons of our enemies. And for crotchety old men.
So, is there someone you need to invite over for dinner today?
I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.