Faith, Uncategorized
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Library Overdues Anonymous {A Lesson in Forgiveness}

I love the library.

Yes, for all the obvious reasons:

1) Books, books, books of every kind, genre and design in line for inspection in tidy row upon row waiting to be lifted from Dewy Decimal Systematic shelves and sampled like mixed chocolates.

2) Baskets to be filled with any assortment I choose–my whim is a map to a destiny of novels, crime fiction, memoir and history.

I can be as undiscriminating as I please! I can try out anything without risk!

3) Everything is FREE!

Free as in, I can swipe the card and there is no charge for walking out with up to twenty items!

4) I don’t have to keep what I don’t like and I can even leave the discarded selections on the library table.

Forrest Gump’s mother could have likened life to a library-full of books, “Ya never know what you’re gonna get.” But unlike chocolates, no one cares if you decide you don’t like your original choice. {Come on now, who hasn’t picked a bit of chocolate coating off of the back of a gorgeous truffled candy dollop only to put it back into its crinkly paper cradle once you’ve discovered–with disappointment–that it’s lemon creme or walnut nougat?}

However, as much as I love the library and as much as I intended to be the literary-endorsing mom that returns to the library for weekly visits with eager readers in tow, I had not been to the library in well over a year.

You see, I have problem.

I get carried away, I get busy, I miss the due dates and I become seriously delinquent.

I rack up library fines like Lady Gaga collects Twitter followers. Except I’m embarrassed over myself.

I avoid the library. I buy used books instead, claiming that it’s cheaper in the long run to buy a volume of fifty-cent paperbacks and donate what I don’t keep.

But the truth demands release and I finally admit:

I cannot pay my fines.

Like an addict I maxed out my card, my kids’ card and even my “I maybe read two books a year” husband’s card. There’s an intervention.

For a long time I carry the library card in my wallet and look at it every so often just to think about the library: I imagine it’s double doors open to a sprawl of tomes, sequels, chic-lit and how-to’s all organized and looking beautiful. The first shelves to welcome my scanning eyes are the “staff picks” and “new releases”. I fill my lovely basket with selections from these two shelves and only foray into the back section to look up a particular book I hope to find available for check-out. Then, I see myself at the self-scanner beeping with wild abandon and turn to waltz out to my car balancing books better than an accountant.

I return the card to my wallet with a sigh. So, I pay my penance. I deny myself library privileges.

Because I’m in debt to the library. Because I have a problem. Until one day, I turn and ask for help. And my sweet, two-books-a-year husband agrees to bail me out. Again.

And wiping my mouth from all the humble pie I’ve eaten, I walk to the check-out counter and say, “I’m here to take care of my debt.”

After some card-scanning and password checking, I’m given a grand total and write the check.

And here’s my favorite thing about the library:

The librarian returns my card and a receipt proving I’ve paid and with a smile says, “Thank you.”

That’s it!

There’s no guilt-trip. No condemning speech. No probationary period. No dirty looks or scarlet letter.

It’s a done deal.

I am free to fully participate in all that the library has to offer.

And I’ll enjoy the whole experience.

I’ve made a plan to stay out of trouble, even designating a specific shelf for library books so that I don’t find  one stuffed into the recesses of my sofa in eighteen months. I’ve declared a no-video-or-DVD rule and I’m prepared to enforce it. But I know I’ll mess up. As much as I try to be perfect, I will fail. I will do something to fail in this contract, perhaps not as badly next time, but there will be a next time.

To help me remember, I taped my receipt for $79.00 worth of library fines in a place of visual prominence. I want to remember the debt that I incurred, the grace that paid my way into the freedom and joy that full library rights afford me. I want to be grateful for what has been done for me so that I can return often to the library and benefit from the knowledge and beauty that’s there, free for the taking.


“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love. Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” {Luke 7:47-48, 50}

We are all sin-addicts, habitual and predictable in our patterns. But we have forgiveness in Jesus, just by calling on his name. Even with this lavish grace, we still fail, born into sin are we. But Scripture tells us we have been reborn into life and holiness and peace with God. Keeping that faith-life fresh requires that we see the miracle of reconciliation with God in even the funny or everyday experiences. Perhaps God would like us to examine the “graces” in daily life with spiritual vision. So many big, Christian-y words are played out in daily life: absolution, remission, redemption, reconciliation, and even the anecdotes of our lives point to a perpetually redeeming Savior.

Our response is to enter in to the lesson and find freedom and joy that’s there — free for the taking.

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” {Acts 20:24}

Do you have a story like my library fine story? Have you received forgiveness or grace freely? Have you tried seeing illustrations of your faith-life in day-to-day circumstances? Have you been “graced” in ways that have helped you see afresh your relationship with Jesus?

Our glorious, happy task is to testify to the gospel of God’s grace…could we ever run out of graces to count?




  1. Aren’t paid debts freeing? As I was reading about your library debt, I was thinking about the debt Jesus paid and then I saw you were thinking this too:) So thankful for that debt being paid, I just want to say “Thank You’ over and over!

    Libraries was one of my blessings this week.

    Visiting from Ann’s place

  2. This made me smile. My husband is known for the library fines in our family (I LOVE the library, but went every Tuesday and kept my account current). I, however, am notorious for getting parking tickets. We saw these two things as mutual opportunities for grace. I never shamed him over library fines and he never scolded me for my parking tickets. We both chose to overlook these offenses. Funny thing, after a few years of grace, both of us actually IMPROVED our behavior in these areas. We finally went a whole year with neither library fines nor parking tickets! I love the verse that says that it is the “kindness” of the Lord that leads us to repentance. I have seen the truth of this in my life over and over.

  3. First visit to your site! Thank you for leaving a comment on mine. Since we visit the library weekly, I bought each of my girls their own bag and for the most part, we keep the library books in these bags. From time to time, we misplace a few but the persistence to keep the books inside her own bag seems to be working pretty well. And isn’t it grand to be instantly forgiven once the fee is paid?! If only I could forgive myself so easily! Our Lord is above all-measure in his grace – I want so much to adopt a forgiveness lifestyle. Really enjoyed reading your post; I’ll return often!

  4. Visiting from Multitudes on Mondays…

    Wow, are you speaking my language! Thank you for this amazing and inspiring post!

    I’m a new follower through NetWorked Blogs…


  5. hello, my name is suzi and i am a library abuser too!

    love this… but especially your last line: Could we ever run out of graces to count?


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