Legalism vs. Grace

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A Parable of Law and Grace

There once was a certain man, a professor of philosophy at an Ivy-League university in beautiful rural New England. He was very happy and thoroughly satisfied with his work, and was deeply in love with his young wife and two small children. But then one day a calamity struck; his beautiful wife was killed in an accident, and the professor was left alone with his grief and his responsibility to now be both father and mother to his two children.

The more he struggled to meet all the obligations of home and career, the more certain he became that he was simply not going to be able to accomplish everything that he needed to do every day without some help. And so it was that he placed an ad in the local paper for a full-time live-in nanny and housekeeper.

After interviewing dozens of candidates, the professor finally found a young woman who seemed to exactly meet his needs. She was bright, cheery, and intelligent. She came with excellent references, both as to her abilities and to her character. The children took to her and once. And as a bonus, she was very nice to look at.

And so Nanny was hired, and came to set up residence in Professor’s large brownstone at the end of Faculty Row on the south end of the campus. So there would be no misunderstanding concerning her duties to him and to the family, as well as concerning his duties to her, they sat down together and drew up a carefully worded contract that spelled out in significant detail all the housekeeping chores that needed attending, and the days on which each would be accomplished.

They worked out a monthly menu that included all of Professor’s favorite dishes (and nearly all of Nanny’s), with occasional pizza and hot dogs for the children; and, of course, for dessert there would be occasional ice cream or pie, and sometimes even both.

On the list they included Professor’s preferences for his wardrobe: crisply starched shirts (but no starch in the boxers, please); there was only one dry cleaner in town that Professor trusted with his suits; the children also had preferences as to the kind and colors of clothing they liked to wear.

Professor included a list of those people whom he trusted to perform maintenance tasks around the house and yard: the plumber, the electrician, the gardener, the pool-maintenance man.

They also documented in fairly great detail (because both Professor and Nanny felt it was important to do so) his philosophy of child-rearing and proper loving discipline. There was a list of permitted and forbidden activities for the children, as well as a detailed list of television programs and videos that were considered “appropriate for the children.”

Professor carefully explained the family budget to Nanny, and she was taught how to use the bookkeeping program on the computer (the one in the kitchen, but not the one in Professor’s office), and they went to the bank together where Professor gave her signature authority on his household checking account.

Of course, they were also careful to make note of Professor’s responsibilities to Nanny. She would be provided with room, board, three meals a day (with reasonable between-meal and bedtime snacks), and he would even buy a new minivan for her to use when she went out to run her errands or to take the children to school or their various activities. A very generous salary was stipulated, as were periodic performance reviews and appropriate adjustments in compensation, plus bonuses for Christmas, birthdays, and the like.

Thy carefully arranged for Nanny to have personal time off, and two weeks each summer were specified when Professor would stay at home with the children while Nanny went to visit her mother in Arizona.

In fact, every detail of family life and home maintenance was carefully documented so there would be no questions, ever, as to what was expected from their relationship to each other.

As time went by, Nanny became a real part of Professor’s family and she became a true surrogate mother to his children. They truly loved her and she truly loved them.

After Nanny had been working for Professor for several years, they found that their mutually-favorite time of the day was in the evening after the children had been tucked into bed, when Professor and Nanny would sit in the large wood-paneled den with the wonderfully soft leather furniture (and in the winter a blazing fire in the huge stone fireplace to keep them all warm and toasty), and they would share with each other their experiences of the day and their feelings about those experiences.

One day, much to their surprise, Professor and Nanny discovered that they had fallen in love. And so one bright spring afternoon, they were married in the campus chapel, in the maple grove at the north end of the campus.

Some time not long after the wedding, they were amazed to find that their relationship hadn’t changed very much. Nanny still loved and took care of the children, but now she was a real mother to them. She still managed the household budget for the family, and washed the clothes, and cooked the meals, and kept the house clean, and took the children to school and to their activities in the shiny new minivan, and supervised their consumption of TV programs and videos. She still took time to visit her mother in Arizona, but now the schedule was much more flexible; she was not bound to the strict schedule that had been a part of her earlier employment contract.

Instead of being given a weekly salary, Nanny now found that she was an equal partner in all of Professor’s possessions, and she was free to go the store and buy anything that she needed (within the bounds of the budget, of course). Her direction of the plumber, the electrician, the gardener, and the pool-maintenance man took on surprisingly new meaning, because now the tradesmen were maintaining Nanny’s house, and Nanny found a great sense of pride and comfort in that fact.

In fact, Professor and Nanny soon discovered that there was no use at all for their former contract. They now did for each other out of love exactly those things that they had formerly done for each other based on their written agreement. But now their relationship with each other was much more satisfying because it was based on their love and respect for each other, and on their intimate knowledge of each other’s needs, and wants, and desires.

Now they found that their mutually-favorite time of the day was in the evening after the children had been tucked into bed, when Professor and Nanny would snuggle down into their wonderfully cozy king-sized bed with the goose-down comforter (and in the winter a blazing fire in the huge stone fireplace to keep them all warm and toasty), and they would share with each other their experiences of the day and their feelings about those experiences.

And so they lived happily ever after.

Page last updated on Wednesday, 03 August 2016 11:18 AM
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