Throughout my life, I’ve received my share of (well-deserved) consequences for wrongdoing. But more than once, I didn’t get what I deserved. Instead, I received mercy.

One day when I was around 12, my family was at the mall. I was supposed to keep an eye on my younger brother while my parents stood in line, but I got distracted, and he wandered away and almost reached the parking lot outside before we found him. Did my parents give me a stern lecture? You bet, but it was tempered with so much love and mercy. I got grace that day, undeserved but never forgotten.

When I was a little older, I once took something that wasn’t mine. When my mom confronted me, I felt blood thundering in my ears as I thought Why did I do this? Life will never be the same!But Mom took me in her arms and said she knew I could be a better man—and to start, I would return the item immediately. And it turned out I was right (however, not in the way I expected)—my life has never been the same since this poignant lesson.

Then came the nasty fights, pointless arguments, and snide comebacks of my teen years and young adulthood. I would behave badly to a friend, sibling, or parent, and then feel ashamed, knowing I had earned exclusion, rejection, or some other consequence. Sometimes, I got it. But often, I found that others had bigger souls and hearts than I imagined, and time and again, I was forgiven.

Now I strive to be both a loving husband to my amazing wife and a kind father to my two little girls. Most days, I do okay. Some days, not so much. There have been times when I’ve behaved badly and it was hard to face not only them, but also myself. But incredibly, when my head has been bowed in shame, their love lifted it and blessed me with their kindness and reassurance.All this has shown me that life is one long learning process.

Jesus forgave those who hated, beat, and killed Him. He had patience with His disciples when they struggled to understand His teachings. He welcomed back those who had denied Him and friends who had hurt Him deeply. He touched the doubters and outcasts and gently lifted their heads, blessing them with unrestrained love. He affirms to us daily that there’s room in His kingdom for all of us lost and lonely sinners when we come to Him.