I haven’t used the library in several years. I’d rather own the majority of the books I read so that I can mark, underline and reference back to things at a later date. However, in an effort to be frugal over the holidays, I decided to get a new library card. I checked out a book on photography and it was due back yesterday. It didn’t get taken back.
I went to the library today to return it – late. I didn’t really want to get out. It was cold outside and I had just started to warm up in my car. I knew I needed to get it back though. I probably wouldn’t want to do it tomorrow or the next day either. When I pulled into the parking lot, I saw the drive-up book return I had forgotten about the day before. I was very tempted to pull up, crack my window, drop it in and drive away. But there was the late charge. Now I know library late fees aren’t much. I’m sure they’ve gone up since the last time I checked out a book but they couldn’t have gone up that much. I wanted to worry about that another day and just get out of there. I could pay it the next time I was at the library. The only thing is, I had no idea when that would be. I doubt it would be any time soon since I haven’t stepped foot in a library since 2003 or 2004, and that was because I was in college at the time and didn’t have much choice.
By the way, I used to work at a movie store and you could always pick out the people who had late fees. They did one of two things. Either, they would stick their arm in the door just enough to lay the movies on the counter and dodge out the door or they would drop the movies in the night return while we were open. Those were dead giveaways that they owed money and wanted to avoid paying it. I imgaine the library sees a lot of the same things for the same reasons.
At this point I had a “What Would Jesus Do?” moment and decided I should go in and pay the fine that I owed. It would be the right thing to do. I lay the book on the counter and say, “I’m here to return this book. It’s late. It was due back yesterday and I need to pay my fee.” It comes out like a “I confess to this crime. I’m ready to accept my punishment.” The girl looks at me funny and asks if I said it was due back yesterday. I told her that was in deed what I had said. She looked at me and said, “There is a grace period. You don’t owe anything.” What? Awesome!! Can you tell I don’t go to the library often?
As I walked out the words “grace period” struck me. I’m so glad that God has a grace period. I owed a debt that I couldn’t pay and there was no avoiding the charges. But God in His mercry and grace paid it all. I’m glad that when I mess up God gives me the grace to repent instead of the punishment I deserve. I’m thankful that my God doesn’t sit up in the heavens and throw lightening bolts at us everytime we get a little out of line. He is the God of love and compassion. His grace is sufficient for us. Don’t get me wrong; sin is still sin and God can’t look on sin. There are consequences for our actions and we have to live with those. But God is there to see us through those consequences. He is right there with us, with grace and forgiveness, mercy and love. He is the God of the grace period.
I’m so glad that I took that book into the library today. In actuality, I could have dropped that book off in the outside book return and it wouldn’t have cost me anything. But I didn’t know that. If I hadn’t gone in, I would have missed out on the blessing God had for me. I’m learning more and more that we need to listen to those little nudges, no matter how small, silly or insignificant they seem. You never know when God is up to something.