Because I’m Yours. The little girl who finally went to Disney World

I never dreamed that taking a child to Disney World could be so difficult — or that such a trip could teach me so much about God’s outrageous grace.

Our middle daughter had been previously adopted by another family. I [Timothy] am sure this couple had the best of intentions, but they never quite integrated the adopted child into their family of biological children. After a couple of rough years, they dissolved the adoption, and we ended up welcoming an eight-year-old girl into our home.

For one reason or another, whenever our daughter’s previous family vacationed at Disney World, they took their biological children with them, but they left their adopted daughter with a family friend. Usually — at least in the child’s mind — this happened because she did something wrong that precluded her presence on the trip.

And so, by the time we adopted our daughter, she had seen many pictures of Disney World and she had heard about the rides and the characters and the parades. But when it came to passing through the gates of the Magic Kingdom, she had always been the one left on the outside. Once I found out about this history, I made plans to take her to Disney World the next time a speaking engagement took our family to the southeastern United States.

I thought I had mastered the Disney World drill. I knew from previous experiences that the prospect of seeing cast members in freakishly oversized mouse and duck costumes somehow turns children into squirming bundles of emotional instability. What I didn’t expect was that the prospect of visiting this dreamworld would produce a stream of downright devilish behavior in our newest daughter. In the month leading up to our trip to the Magic Kingdom, she stole food when a simple request would have gained her a snack. She lied when it would have been easier to tell the truth. She whispered insults that were carefully crafted to hurt her older sister as deeply as possible — and, as the days on the calendar moved closer to the trip, her mutinies multiplied.

A couple of days before our family headed to Florida, I pulled our daughter into my lap to talk through her latest escapade. “I know what you’re going to do,” she stated flatly. “You’re not going to take me to Disney World, are you?” The thought hadn’t actually crossed my mind, but her downward spiral suddenly started to make some sense. She knew she couldn’t earn her way into the Magic Kingdom — she had tried and failed that test several times before — so she was living in a way that placed her as far as possible from the most magical place on earth.

In retrospect, I’m embarrassed to admit that, in that moment, I was tempted to turn her fear to my own advantage. The easiest response would have been, “If you don’t start behaving better, you’re right, we won’t take you” — but, by God’s grace, I didn’t. Instead, I asked her, “Is this trip something we’re doing as a family?”

She nodded, brown eyes wide and tear-rimmed.

“Are you part of this family?”

She nodded again.

“Then you’re going with us. Sure, there may be some consequences to help you remember what’s right and what’s wrong — but you’re part of our family, and we’re not leaving you behind.”

I’d like to say that her behaviors grew better after that moment. They didn’t. Her choices pretty much spiraled out of control at every hotel and rest stop all the way to Lake Buena Vista. Still, we headed to Disney World on the day we had promised, and it was a typical Disney day. Overpriced tickets, overpriced meals, and lots of lines, mingled with just enough manufactured magic to consider maybe going again someday.

In our hotel room that evening, a very different child emerged. She was exhausted, pensive, and a little weepy at times, but her month-long facade of rebellion had faded. When bedtime rolled around, I prayed with her, held her, and asked, “So how was your first day at Disney World?”

She closed her eyes and snuggled down into her stuffed unicorn. After a few moments, she opened her eyes ever so slightly. “Daddy,” she said, “I finally got to go to Disney World. But it wasn’t because I was good; it’s because I’m yours.”

It wasn’t because I was good; it’s because I’m yours.

That’s the message of outrageous grace.

Outrageous grace isn’t a favor you can achieve by being good; it’s the gift you receive by being God’s. Outrageous grace is God’s goodness that comes looking for you when you have nothing but a middle finger flipped in the face of God to offer in return. It’s a farmer paying a full day’s wages to a crew of deadbeat day laborers with only a single hour punched on their time cards (Matthew 20:1 – 16). It’s a man marrying an abandoned woman and then refusing to forsake his covenant with her when she turns out to be a whore (Ezekiel 16:8 – 63; Hosea 1:1 — 3:5). It’s the insanity of a shepherd who puts ninety-nine sheep at risk to rescue the single lamb that’s too stupid to stay with the flock (Luke 15:1 – 7). It’s the love of a father who hands over his finest rings and robes to a young man who has squandered his inheritance on drunken binges with his fair-weather friends (Luke 15:11 – 32)…It’s one-way love that calls you into the kingdom not because you’ve been good but because God has chosen you and made you his own. And now he is chasing you to the ends of the earth to keep you as his child, and nothing in heaven or hell can ever stop him…

But here’s what’s amazing about God’s outrageous grace: This isn’t merely what God the Father would do; it’s what he did do. God could have chosen to save anyone, everyone, or no one from Adam’s fallen race. But what God did was to choose a multi-hued multitude of “someones,” and — if you are a believer in Jesus Christ — one of those “someones” was you. God in Christ has declared over you, “I could have chosen anyone in the whole world as my child, and I chose you. No matter what you say or do, neither my love nor my choice will ever change.” That’s grace that’s truly amazing. (Pgs. 81-84)

Source: PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace

By Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones

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The Sicilian Court Case

In February 2000 newspapers reported an astonishing hoax that took place on the island of Sicily. The ringleader of the hoax was an Italian judge. He decided to stage a fake court case with the sole purpose of having a laugh at a lawyer from the mainland. The date was fixed, the court proceedings announced, and a female prosecutor, Iolanda Apostolica was brought across from mainland Italy. Everybody was in on the joke, except for Ms Apostolica. The aim of the hoax was to spend the entire case laughing at her behind her back. To heighten her humiliation the judge assigned everyone involved in the case a name drawn from Sicilian slang. He was to be known as Judge Licazzi, the Defence lawyer as Mr Crastello and a court officer as Ms Sbardasciata. For those of you unfamiliar with Sicilian slang, Licazzi means testicles, Crastello means castrated and Sbardasciata means cretinous. So for the entire proceedings, as the prosecution lawyer argued what she thought was a genuine case, she was referring to his honour Mr Testicles, defence lawyer Mr Castrated and Court Officer Ms Cretinous.

The first the prosecution layer knew something was amiss was when a colleague flashed her a sign that said “They joke about you in court”. When she returned home she described her day to her boyfriend Claudio, who just happened to be a university tutor in Rome who knew Sicilian slang.

Once she had put two and two together you can imagine how Iolanda felt – embarrassed, shamed and humiliated. The next day her boyfriend Claudio showed up at court, walked up to the judge’s bench and spat the judge in the eye, then left a note that read “A joke from Claudio Moffa”.

You wouldn’t believe it but the judge brought real charges against Claudio. Claudio defended himself on the grounds that he was reclaiming his girlfriend’s honour. He lost and was given a suspended prison sentence. At the time the Sydney Morning Herald reported the judge was facing disciplinary proceedings.

Source: Incident reported in Sydney Morning Herald, 18/2/2000

The Milgrom Experiments

In 1961 a young assistant professor at Yale University conducted an experiment on obedience. The aim was to see how far ordinary citizens would comply with an order to inflict pain on another human being. Members of the public were recruited and the experiments began. Two participants were introduced to one another, with one asked to play the role of “teacher” and the other the role of “learner”. The learner, who was an actor hired by Professor Milgrom, was strapped into a chair wired to a generator. The person playing the role of teacher was told that the experiment would test the effect of punishment on learning. They were to ask a series of questions, and each time the learner gave the wrong answer, they were to punish him with a jolt of electricity. Starting with 15 volts the teacher was to increase the voltage for every mistake.

To Professor Milgrom’s astonishment over 60% of participants pushed the voltage past the warning level which read “Danger – Severe Shock”. All this while they heard the “victim” moaning, then screaming in pain. Psychologists had suggested only a small group of the population with psychopathic tendencies would go through to this level, yet here were over 60% of people drawn from the general population of New Haven acting in ways that we all believe are cruel.

What do the experiments prove? Social behaviour experts question whether they demonstrate people’s willingness to blindly obey authority. After all people routinely disobey authority when they defy their parents, speed in their car, or fail to do what school teachers ask. Lee Ross of Stanford University and his colleague Richard Nisbett believe the Milgrom experiments show how decisive is context for our behaviour. In order to disobey participants had to step out of the whole situation and deny the validity of the experiment to the experimenter. Ross and Nisbett suggest that people tend to do thing because of where they are, not who they are. In different circumstances people will act in a manner quite different to how they might act in another set of circumstances.

Source: reported in The Good Weekend magazine December 2, 2000