Here’s the thing. The concept of Grace is hard to capture. I’ve had it wrong for so long that it just seemed normal. I thought I could manipulate Grace based on my limited understanding of logic and faith. The truth is we can only extend Grace to others to the degree in which we’re willing to offer it to ourselves. What I mean is that I used to believe that I could be gracious to those I love when they need it (and even when they don’t) without necessarily being gracious to me. Take my grieving process for example. I’m at the stage now where I have these “aha” moments when I remember that my brother is dead. That’s not to say that I regularly forget. When my mind learns the truth all over again, my emotions react as if they didn’t have any previous knowledge of recent events. I experience shock every time. I think this is a result of two distinct factors: my living so far away from my family and my understanding this new normal. Nevertheless, I get frustrated with myself because I feel like I have to “start over.” I treat grief as if it’s a 12-step process and every time I mess up, get it wrong or have a bad day, I go back to step one.
What does this have to do with Grace?
Again, we can only extend Grace to others to the degree in which we’re willing to offer it to ourselves. If a friend were experiencing any form of loss or sorrow, I’d try my hardest to be the best friend possible. I’d tarry in prayer for them, go on a 21-day fast with them, and just sit in silence when words aren’t needed. As for me, I’m a power player. I’ve grown very fond of my Instagram image. I think my networking persona is extremely becoming. And I adore the idea that I can control everything, especially my emotions. This superwoman complex, as I’ve discussed before in previous posts, is psychologically and emotionally damaging. It teaches us that our mistakes aren’t redeemable. It creates a false sense of pride in tangible and public success. It reduces Jesus to a distant and angry miasma. It forces us to put a time limit on anything that causes discomfort – or that doesn’t agree with the fairytale life we expect ourselves to live.WHERE DID WE LEARN THAT? What Disney movie did we watch too often? What made us believe that we only deserve Grace when operating as our best and greatest selves? The truth is it comes from all angles. We are conditioned to believe that a public life = a significant life Thusly, if we’re working hard, operating in our calling, trusting and believe God, it doesn’t seem like enough because you can’t snapchat your faithfulness. You can’t Instagram your prayer life. You can’t Periscope your growth. We want to see results, blessings and tangible favor. Sis/Bro, God is only concerned with your heart. Nothing else matters. And Grace is received at the heart level.
I promised myself that I wouldn’t write as much about my brother this year. I wouldn’t make people deal with my grief in 2016 because it’s almost been a year and I should be better by now. More joyous. Stronger. Bolder. Many days, I am all three. Many days, I wake up optimistic and expectant. Then there are those days. Those days I feel lost. Those days I can’t see past Ricky’s grave. Those days I feel lonely and broken-hearted beyond repair. Those days remind me that faith and fear are next-door neighbors. And they visit one another sometimes. I try not to allow them to share space, but I lose that battle from time-to-time.
Anyway, back to Grace. By definition, it means unmerited favor. That means we can’t deserve it, own it, quantify it, understand it or wrap our arms around it. We can only receive the gift gratefully. I’m learning to have more compassion and Grace with me. I’m growing to love me when I’m not easy to love. I’m beginning to understand that my “performance” does not disqualify me from wholeness, love and belonging. In turn, I want to love God’s people like He does: completely and without condition. That desire forces me to the Cross, where Jesus bled for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). He died for our access to abundant life and freedom. I cling to the Cross to receive Grace so I can offer Grace to others, including me.
I hear some of you asking the question, “How do we not abuse Grace by condoning bad behavior?”
If you’re reading this it means that you are a living being, prone to inequity and sin (Romans 3:23). I argue with my flesh ALL the time so I am not above anyone. Sin is ever-present, but so is help…so is the Holy Spirit…so is Jesus. Let me give you another relevant example. On days when something reminds me of Ricky, I have two options. I can smile and have a quiet moment of connection to his memory. Or, I can get stuck in my emotions that quickly turn from joy to pain. There are times when I CHOOSE the latter. I have even manipulated his memory to justify my unproductivity, nasty attitude and emotional unrest. I’ll tell God, “You took my brother. I surely have reason to be in my feelings today.” However, in the same way that God loves and comforts me back to wholeheartedness, we are called to do the same toward others. Does He condone my attitude? Absolutely not. He just knows there are consequences to sin and disobedience, and He wants us to avoid those dangers. It’s for OUR good. The more we learn about and love God, the more we’ll start to see ourselves as He sees us. And that love carries us to a place where we can forgive ourselves, love our neighbors and be challenged to live better because we honor God THAT much. It’s amazing that the more I fall in love with God, the more I don’t want to misuse His Grace.
If you’re struggling in a certain area, take heart. We all are. Likewise, we should be earnestly praying and in God’s face about that thing we’re struggling with because we WANT to please Him, and live graciously. So, next time you have a bad day, understand that a bad day doesn’t equal a bad life. When Jesus was dying on the Cross, He saved a thief who was being crucified next to Him. This man presumably didn’t have a track record of faithful living. But in one moment, ALL of that was wiped away and He was made whole because he WANTED to be. And where is that man now? Somewhere floating above the clouds. #Grace
I often say I live at the intersection of Grace and gratitude. That’s because I decided to make my bed in my weaknesses so that Jesus can raise me up in His strength. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). –>THAT is amazing Grace.
Remember, God loves you and so do I,