The Motivation of Grace

The Motivation of Grace

Posted by Regi Campbell on June 23, 2014

This post is taken from John Lynch’s book On My Worst Day and used with permission. John rocked our world at Radical Mentor Bootcamp in February. We highly recommend his books and all the materials at TrueFaced.com. I start every mentoring group with Bo’s Café . . . an awesome read!


Pyracantha is nearly irrefutable proof of the existence of Satan. I believe it to be his personal plant of choice. In even the harshest climates it steadily matures into a sticker-hedge of death. I’m almost certain, as a boy, I witnessed a neighbor’s dachshund chasing a ball into the pyracantha . . . and never coming out. A tiny yelp and then eerie silence. Two hedges of it came with our Phoenix home purchase. Front yard and back. Picture green barbed wife, with inedible red berries.

Trimming it was part of my particular list of “chores”. Chores were at the center of the tension between my father and me during high school. He thought I should do them. I felt strongly I should not. Especially during the summer. I thought I should not be asked to do anything during summer break but stay out long after the streetlights came on. I was to pick up the dog poop, clean the pool, make my bed, wash the car, mow the lawn and keep up with the ever-advancing pyracantha. Nearly every day it was the same:

Dad: “John, did you do your chores?”

John: (indistinguishable mumblings)

Dad: “Well, you’re not leaving this house until they’re done.”

John: (louder indistinguishable mumblings)

And so it went. My halfhearted keeping of chores, after enough nagging and threats.

One June morning, this all changed. Before he walked out the door for work, he found me. I was doing nothing, preparing for an entire day of doing nearly nothing.

He was wearing black dress slacks, a starched white shirt and a red tie, held to his shirt with a clip.

“John, I don’t tell you enough how much I care about you. You bring a lot of life and laughter to our home. Your mom and I are so proud of you. Do you know that?” Then he headed to the door, turning back to say, “If you want, when I get home, we could play some catch.”

Then he was off. So were my plans for the rest of the day. I still don’t know what happened. Did he take a parenting class the evening before? Regardless, almost involuntarily, I walked to the shed and pulled out our hedge trimmers. They were rusted and jammed. I had no gloves. I poured a jug of water and walked out into the Phoenix summer heat to tackle the hellish pyracantha.

I dug deep into that spreading vine of death. I reshaped that ignored mass of thorns into something almost resembling a hedge. It took me almost all day. I didn’t care. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard. My hands were blistered from the antique hedge trimmer and my arms were bleeding from picking up thorn-covered vines formed during the Hoover administration. I took the garbage can to the alley and mowed up the last scraps I couldn’t get by hand.

I was in my bedroom when I heard his ’62 Chevy wagon turn into the carport. Mom greeted him at the door. “Jim, you have to come and see what John did today!” Through the mostly closed blinds of my bedroom window, I watched him walk out to inspect what I’d done.

Then, the reason I had cancelled a summer day with buddies. He smiled. I rarely got to see that smile. He was beaming. He was proud of his son. I was getting to be the son he described to me before he left for work.

A rebellious high school kid turned friend in one interchange. Though my dad didn’t have God as his motivation, something about being formed in the very image of God caused him to affirm and bless a son who less than deserved it. And that son found himself wanting to bring great joy to his father.


Awakening: The motivation of grace will always bear greater fruit than the coercion of demand.

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