16 September 2008

Of Grace and Graciousness

If you know me at all, you know that one of the strongest words in my life is “grace.” The concept of grace is incredibly hard to grasp. It’s hard to explain a nebulous concept, even when it’s concrete, substantial in your own life. Grace is unmerited favor. Grace is an undeserved second chance. Grace is what ultimately gets us through life. Grace, in some regards, is life.

Grace is what creates an atmosphere that allows reconciliation. Grace breeds mercy. Grace provides a way out, when there’s no way out. Grace is what heralds love, kindness, patience, and myriad other qualities. Grace is indispensable.

Have you ever experienced grace? Perhaps a better question would be this: have you ever experienced grace and recognized it for what it is? I hope your answer is in the affirmative. If it’s not, take off the blinders. I am firmly convinced that there is not a soul in existence who hasn’t experienced some measure of grace. Stop and think about it for a moment. Have you ever made some harsh statement in the heat of a moment and then been forgiven for it? Have you ever made a bad decision, then been miraculously released from the consequences? Has someone been patient with you when you’ve been mean-spirited? Has someone applied the Golden Rule to you? Have you accepted the Salvation of Christ? Have you been relieved of responsibility for something that you couldn’t handle? Have you ever been loved by someone? Have you ever been treated kindly? All of these things are measures of grace—some large, some small, but grace, all.

I have, in my life, experienced great, heaping gobs of grace. It just piles up around me and runs down me. I can’t seem to wade through it all to even find where it ends, and yet, there are times when I am less than gracious to those around me. I suppose it’s something to which everyone must devote effort, but there are moments when I’m truly ashamed of my lack of graciousness, considering it all.

One of the new challenges in my life is helping me grow in the graciousness that I extend to others. Perhaps it is because of the fact that I pile up unmerited favor for myself and sometimes hoard it instead of dispensing it freely to others. Either way, I pray that the purpose of God is fulfilled in this challenge.

You know, sometimes grace appears in the strangest ways. My dad brought an instance of grace to my attention that I had entirely missed. This past weekend, my car broke down. Gasp! My steadfast, faithful car! Heavens, no! Yes. Sigh. Let me share the instances of grace with you. Dad pointed one out, and the more I think of it, the more I find.

The battery had died, inexplicably, with no warning, when it had worked fine a few minutes previously. Dead as a doornail. Dead. Dead. Dead. I went to the trunk to retrieve my jumper cables. I am anal-retentive about making sure that there are jumper cables in my vehicle. I always keep them in the wheel well with the spare tire, so that I don’t inadvertently remove them when I clean out the trunk or something. I opened up the wheel well, and, wait. What in the world!? No jumper cables. (The only thing I ultimately came up with is that when I had a flat over a year ago and the shop was putting the spare back in the trunk, they must have removed my jumper cables and not put them back afterward. Sigh.) Grace instance #1: my girlfriend and her boyfriend were there and were willing to jump my car with hers. Grace instance #2: someone else was nearby and was willing to loan us jumper cables. We continued with our plans, and when we got to our destination, we realized that my car was dead again. Grace instance #3: a very kind young man bent the rules to allow my insurance’s roadside assistance access to the area where we were. We finally got moving again, and my car died in the parking lot of a gas station where we had stopped (leaving the car running) for a potty break. Grace instance #4: a kind man offered to get jumper cables and return, and then he did. Grace instance #5: another kind man who had jumper cables with him loaned them to us. Grace instance #6: my friend’s car overheated while we were trying to jump mine with hers, and she just cooled it off, fixed it up, and hooked it right back up to mine. Grace instance #7: when we weren’t sure that we’d make it back, another friend offered to bring me back to pick up the car the next day if I had to leave it. I may have forgotten to mention that we were about an hour and a half away from where I live, at the time. I have free towing with my insurance, but it only applies within a 12 mile radius, so my car would have been towed to a station that was still an hour and a half from my place, had we not gotten it started. Grace instance #8: my friend and her boyfriend followed me all the way to my repair shop, which was out of their way, and then took me home afterward. Grace instance #9: the shop was closed when we got there. I had a dead car, no place to leave a key for the mechanic, and no way to get back to deliver it. There was still someone inside, and she graciously opened the door and let me leave the key and sign the paperwork.

Now we get to the part that my dad pointed out… All this happened on Saturday. That meant that I was without my car on Sunday, and until the mechanic could fix it on Monday. Without a car, getting to/from the church I attend is a huge ordeal, where I live. I stayed home. I sat and read my Bible, read some of the books that I’m currently studying, and then got started with some things over which I’ve procrastinated myself into a corner. I actually got a ridiculous volume of work done in my apartment on Sunday afternoon. When I talked to my dad, he said, “God knew what He was doing. If you’d had your car and had the ability to run around, run errands, go to church, and all that, would you have gotten all those things done?” The answer, when I thought about it, was no. I wouldn’t have completed some things that have weighed on my heavily, unless my car was gone and I was stuck. So the Grace of God figured out how to solve a half dozen or more of my problems by using car trouble. Furthermore, I’m getting ready to move about 900 miles away, and had my car broken down on the trip, or after I get to the new location (without a repair shop I know and trust), I could have been in really hot water. The protection that God provides is astounding sometimes, when you stop to think about it.

I don’t suppose that this post really has a point. Perhaps it’s more of an observation than anything, but if that’s the case, it’s a reminder to me that I should give out of the bounty of the blessings I’ve received. If the way we forgive is the way we’ll be forgiven, then it’s yet another measure of grace that the grace that’s extended to us will always abound exponentially over the grace we extend.

If you’re someone who has extended grace to me, I thank you. If you’re someone I’ve not treated graciously, I am truly sorry. My assignment is now to find some way to extend grace to those around me in some form or fashion, every day. May you be richly blessed with grace and graciousness.

Much love.

No comments: