It was a week before Christmas and Amy and her mommy had just finished visiting some newly born puppies at a friend’s house. The puppies were so small, but were practically bursting with energy. One in particular had caught Amy’s eye: a beautiful black Yorkshire terrier who always had its tongue out, ready to kiss at the slightest human touch. Amy had held it close, even as it squirmed to lick her face, and had fallen in love. “If he were mine, I would name him Kisses, because that is what he loves to do,” she had said. Amy’s mommy loved the puppy too, but knew that Daddy would take more convincing. “Daddy, I want a puppy,” Amy declared at dinner that night. “You’re too young to have a puppy of your own, honey.” Daddy said, as if he had had this conversation hundreds of times before. “Nu-uh, I would take care of it all by myself. I would Daddy!” “Mommy and I will talk about it later,” he said and Amy knew not to say anything more. She did, however, look imploringly at her mother, hoping maybe this time her daddy could be convinced.
Later that night when Amy was in bed asleep, her mommy and daddy decided to have a talk. “Maybe it is time to get a puppy, Bill,” Amy’s mommy said. “They were so cute, I wouldn’t mind having one myself!” “But Amy needs to learn responsibility. If it were to be her puppy, she would have to take care of it. I don’t want to have to always be the one taking it out or feeding it or paying all the vet’s bills.” Amy’s daddy was trying to teach her how to be a responsible person and he knew this would be an excellent way for her to learn, but he wanted to make sure she would take it seriously. “Maybe I’ll write up a contract that we could have her sign. It could list all the tasks that she would need to do in order to get and keep the puppy.” Amy’s mommy looked at him skeptically.
A couple days later, Amy and her parents sat in the family room to talk about the puppy. Amy was so excited and it burst out as smiles and laughter. Maybe she would finally get the puppy! Maybe tomorrow she and little Kisses would be playing together on the floor of this very room! “Amy, I know how much you’ve been wanting to have a puppy, and your mother and I think you may finally be ready to take care of one. But before you get too excited,” Amy’s daddy added quickly as he saw his daughter giggling in her chair, “you must agree to some chores that I have already written down. We will talk about them now, and then if you agree, you can sign this paper.” Although she was still excited at the prospect of a new puppy, Amy’s smile faded a bit. She was confused by what her daddy was saying to her, but could tell that he was very serious. “Number one, you must train the dog to only go potty outside and clean up any mistakes he might make around the house. Number two, you must give the dog a bath at least once a week. Number three, you will pay for one-half of all doctor’s visits including any medication the dog may need.” Amy sat listening as the list went on and on and her heart sank. Her daddy had compiled a list of chores so very long she knew she would never be able to accomplish them all. There was still one hope. If she could just get the puppy in the house, maybe her daddy would forget about the list and allow it to stay anyway. But suddenly her daddy read the last sentence of the contract. “If Amy is not willing or able to accomplish all the above chores, then the puppy will be sold or given away, and will not be allowed to stay in the house any longer!”
At this, Amy knew her desire would not be fulfilled. She would not get the puppy and Kisses would find a different home. Soon tears flooded her eyes, and she began to cry. Her daddy looked startled, but she managed to explain. “Daddy,” Amy sobbed, with tears pouring down her cheeks, “I can’t sign that list. I’d never be able to do all those chores!” With that, she ran out of the room, and headed for her bed. Amy’s mommy and daddy looked at each other. Her daddy looked shocked at his daughter’s response. “I thought for sure she would sign it. I thought she’d sign it without thinking and we’d have to give the puppy away. I thought it would be a valuable tool for teaching responsibility.” “Well, maybe you didn’t give your daughter enough credit,” said Amy’s mommy knowingly as she left to go comfort her daughter.
That night Amy’s daddy could not sleep. He kept picturing his little girl crying from something he had done. But the worst part was that he knew she had acted more responsibly than he had given her credit for. How could he fix this? He wondered. He wanted so much for his little girl to be happy, but he wanted her to understand his actions. Suddenly, he had an idea. The more he thought about the idea, the more he liked it. But in order for it to work, he had to get up right now and prepare. So he climbed out of bed, and got to work.
On Christmas Eve, Amy woke up early. It wasn’t because she had gone to bed so early the night before. And it wasn’t because she had fallen asleep crying over her lost puppy. It was because she heard a small knocking on the door. “Amy, wake up. Daddy wants to show you something,” came her mommy’s voice from behind the door. Crawling out of her bed, she took her mommy’s hand and was led downstairs to the Christmas tree. Stapled to the wall, Amy recognized the contract her daddy had written, and a sign above it that said “The Law” in large, bold letters. Next to that was another sign that said “Grace.” Amy looked below the sign and saw a tiny ornament that looked like a puppy. The puppy had a sign on it as well. It said “Kisses.” Amy could feel the excitement coming back, but she was confused. “What does it mean, Daddy?” “Come to me,” her daddy said, lifting her up to his lap. “Before Jesus came to earth, people who loved Him had to abide by every rule that He asked them to. It was quite clear to the people that they could not keep every single rule. It was just impossible for them. But when Jesus came to earth, everything changed. Because He came and took all of our sins and failures upon Himself, we did not need to follow every single rule anymore. In other words, we now live under grace. Under grace, we love Jesus joyfully, knowing that He freed us from our burdens so that we can enjoy everything He has given to us. That contract I wanted you to sign was like the Law that Jesus gave to his people. But we do not live under the Law anymore. Because of Jesus, we live under grace.” “But daddy, what does it mean to live under grace?” Amy asked. “It means,” her daddy paused and smiled at his daughter. “It means,” he said again, “we are getting a puppy.”