A Boyhood Story About Grace by David Layman

image001My parents wrote me a letter when I was attending a 1992 Emmaus Walk (a spiritual renewal experience almost identical to “The Great Banquet”.)  My father began “As we go back in memory to your beginning we want to remind you that you were the one child we almost did not have.  Your mother got to bleeding and had to spend about two months mostly lying down.  So you are special to us just by being here–and because we wanted a third child.”  I only vaguely remembered being told this before.  My parents were not the kind to remind me again and again “Be nice to us!  Your mother had a real struggle before she gave birth to you.”  Of course, I  as an adult like all others have no conscious memory of what I received those first couple of years.  Like God’s grace, my parents began loving me before I could realize and remember.  When my father announced the news of my birth,  brother Jim, 8 years older, was delighted to have a brother.  Sister Ann, 4 years older, had been wishing for a younger sister.  When dad told her the news, she responded “Oh, darn!”

Fortunately, my sister got over her disappointment at my birth, and I was blessed to grow up in a loving, believing family.  Not only were my parents dedicated Christians but my father was a Presbyterian minister!  I was born in Richmond, and lived in Tulsa,  Oklahoma, Monmouth, Illinois (where Kregg and Regina Swanson grew up!) and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  I remember Mom reading Bible stories to me at bedtime, and both parents praying with me.

When I was about 6, I remember complaining to dad that worship was boring.  (At least, compared to running around and playing with friends.)  Dad told me that I was an intelligent boy, and I could get something out of the services if I listened and thought about it.  I did, and I remember tears coming to my eyes as I heard the message of how God’s son Jesus gave his life on the cross for my sins.   (When you have older siblings, you have countless opportunities to have your flaws and failings pointed out!)  What I learned in church that moving day was the Good News that not only was I a sinner–I had a savior in Jesus!

Knowing that I had a loving Heavenly Father and a savior in Jesus, didn’t keep me from getting in trouble!  I liked to play ball as a child.  We always lived in a parsonage right next door to the church.  The good news was that the churches often had a yard to play in.  The bad news is that I managed to break a number of windows, in a variety of different ways.  One day in Tulsa no one else was around to play ball with.  Down the alley from us was a brick apartment building that I discovered could help me play catch on my own.  I could throw my ball against the wall. and catch it as it rebounded back.  Things were going well, until I threw the ball toward a second story wall.  But my throw was off, and my ball broke through a window.  I ran down the alley in record time, and my sister asked me why I was back so soon.  I hadn’t had enough schooling to come up with a good excuse by saying something like “The earth’s rotation on its axis during the time the ball left my hand and the ball arrived at the building caused my well intentioned aim to break the window.”   No, I was so shook up at the moment, I told the truth.  And Ann said “Boy, are you going to get it when mom and dad get home!”  Needless to say, that was one of the longest mornings of my life!

As I think back, it would have been a relief if my parents had just yelled at me and gotten a paddle out.  Instead, dad told me I was going with him to confess what I had done to the woman who owned the building, and offer to pay for its replacement.  They didn’t have minimum wage laws at that time, and I helped with the dishes for my allowance of 5 cents a week.  That doesn’t seem like much today.  But for 5 cents back then, I could buy a pack of 6 baseball cards, and a big slab of gum.  For 10 cents, I could by a comic book.  As I plodded off with my father to confess my latest sin, I was calculating that I would probably be in college before my debt was repaid!  The owner of the apartment welcomed us into her home, and I made my confession and offered to pay for the window’s replacement.  I will never forget the woman’s response.  She smiled at me and said that she appreciated my father and I coming to tell her.  And that it was ok.  I wouldn’t have to pay for the replacement.  I never went from feeling so miserable to so glad in all my life!

That to me is an example of God’s forgiveness, mercy and grace!  When we mess up in life–when we sin, there are times when there is nothing in our power to make up for/atone for what we’ve done.  But God’s grace and Christ’s life giving sacrifice on the cross can cover the cost.  It’s far more important  to be forgiven than to be perfect!  What a deep joy can fill our hearts when we realize what God has done for us!

David received a Bachelor of Arts from Carroll College (Wis.), and spent his junior year studying in the Philippines under a program sponsored by the Presbyterian church.  He also received a Masters of Divinity from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, spending an optional intern year in Guatemala and received a Masters of Sacred Theology from Yale Divinity School.  David served 39 plus years as a pastor, the great majority  in Richmond, and also 8 years in Greenville, Ohio when Paul and Candi Wood were there!   He met and married his wife Pam in Richmond.  She graduated from Reid Hospital’s school of radiologic technology, and worked over 20 years as an X ray tech.  There are 8 reasons they wanted to retire in the greater Indianapolis area:  their daughters, spouses, and 4 grandchildren ages 9,7,5 and 3 months.  Daughter Andrea Griswold majored in Early Childhood education at IU, and currently coordinates the Hamilton Heights public preschool.  Her husband Josh works for Chubb Insurance.  Younger daughter Rachel graduated from Ball State in interior design, works for Office Works, and lives in the Lawrence area with husband Brian Jackson and 3 month old son Dean.  Brian works for Klingbell Capital Management.   David was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 5 years ago, and tries to work out at “Rock Steady Boxing” 3 times a week to slow the progression of the disease.