Lately, I have been thinking of the effects of grace in my life, and my thoughts keep taking me to a book I read as a child, the title and author of which I cannot remember.
In the story (set in the 1950s or 1960s, I think), a very poor widow and her children come to live as caretakers on an old, ruined Victorian estate in England. The children are fascinated by the mansion, which was partly burned in the 1800s, killing some Victorian children. By a strange incidence of time travel (they explain it as time being a wheel with rungs, and where a rung meets the wheel, travel in time is possible), they begin to interact with the Victorian children and discover that their deaths were caused by the neglect of their guardian, the family solicitor.
Anyway, the part I keep recalling is when the rest of the ruin catches fire, trapping the "nowadays" children. The weird time travel thing is still going on, and the Victorian solicitor comes in time to walk the children through the burning house and out of the fire. The kids are instructed to hold his hand and not to let go or look at him, no matter what.
As the girl is ushered by the old solicitor through the extremely hot and flaming rooms, she does not feel warm at all. Instead, a coolness pervades her body and she turns to the old man, amazed, to comment that she can't feel the heat at all. She is shocked to see his face a contortion of agony, as he grits his teeth and says fiercely, "Look ahead!"
He is taking the punishing heat of the flames in her stead. She cannot feel a thing. The incredible torment of fire is to her but a cool and gracious breeze.
This is what I think of when I think of the Lord's dying grace. By its complete and utter graciousness, we cannot understand the suffering He went through. He doesn't even want us to. But our thoughts of His suffering ought to motivate us to obey. The keeping of His dying love in the forefront of our minds is a way to be not weary in well doing, because there are dire and necessary punishments we have been saved from, by the tremendous sacrifice of Another. And this Person, who is so gracious and kind, is preparing a place for us, the ones who are the cause of His suffering. Amazing.
(All analogy falls apart eventually. In the book the solicitor is a sinner trying to put his old wrongs to rights in order to be granted rest. Regardless, the portion of the story that describes his actions during the second fire calls to my mind the sacrifice of Christ in a very powerful way.)
If anyone else has read the book or knows the name/author, will you put it in the comments? I'd like to find the book for my kids. It just goes to show that all truth is God's truth, even if you find it in a pseudo-Victorian time travel and ghost story. Especially there, I guess.