Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Grace Expressions

I’m sure I’ve written about grace before. I think it was back in the early days of blogging when it more splurging than any sense of continuity in writing. I know I’ve read the book by Philip Yancey wondering what’s so amazing about it, but I don’t remember much about the book. Might have to re-read it when time allows.

Today once more I was reminded about grace in a conversation with my boss. I was thinking of grace expressions and how for people who may not be aware of how that works or how it expresses itself there are the stories that abound about what it looks like. Going through the Compassion 2009 series at church and looking at some of Jesus’ parables they are replete with expressions of grace. Expressions that I had neglected in knowing what I was reading and being able to explain in good terms as if I knew what it was saying, when actually I had not even begun to get to grips with it. Here are some grace expressions that I have witnessed.

Steve had shirked his responsibilities. He had not paid his rent as he’d promised and the pressure was on to get it paid or he would be out on his ear. Those that worked close with him knew he wasn’t engaging with what was outlined for him and he remained an elusive figure in as much as people tried to get close to him, he appeared to have a perpetual chip on his shoulder. All avenues appeared exhausted and there was nowhere else for him to go except for the streets. As the countdown emerged the angel of the Lord arrived and anonymously ensured the rent was paid and that Steve was given the loving support needed to make progress to the next point.

Anne’s behaviour was out of order; by all accounts she deserved to be arrested for what she did. To assault a member of staff like that and expect to get away with it was just not going to happen. Her track record haunted her like the ghost of Christmas Past and doors opened to others were slammed in her face. Still she failed to recognise her role in her downfall. It was always someone else’s fault. If they did not rile her up then she wouldn’t explode. This was not good enough for someone of her age. By now she should have known better. By now her previous fall-outs should have given her the impression she needed. Now there appeared to be no way out for her – all doors were shut and even the way back to her natural family was no longer tenable because of that behaviour. The angel of the Lord appeared and provided a loving church community willing to go all out to serve her, house her, enable her to gain the tools to build her life on surer foundation and perhaps learn those valuable lessons.

Luke had ruined his marriage and ruined the early days for his firstborn. His self-centred decisions had jeopardised everything that ever meant anything to him. Friends were nowhere to be found, the church was busy sorting its own wounds to offer any salve. As he lurched from one debased low to another intoxicating material that only reinforced the pit he found myself in, he went to sleep empty and hollow. Yet his stubborn will would not yield. That was until the angel of the Lord sent him a text that sent his whole world into tailspin. From the midst of his despair he cried out to God and He restored to Luke his wife and firstborn and blessed him further with a second child who likewise brought great joy. When he looks at them they are living proof of the amazing grace of God. Despite his behaviour he is tremendously blessed by the two children who show that God’s grace is greater and faith in that, faith in Him allows him to rejoice in the truth that he is a continued beneficiary of good things when he has done nothing to earn them.

Key ingredients in these expressions is the fact that not only had nothing been done to deserve what was received, but on the contrary the behaviour, thoughts and words merited something on the contrary to what I actually got. The fact that slip ups are not a slight more than it is a highlight of the generous, forgiving and loving nature of God. I can look back on my life and the lives of others and hear what they have to say about a given event and see God’s grace-prints all over it.

It reminds me of that basis for action seen in Jon Gibson’s track ‘You’ve Gotta Love Somebody’. The propulsion to do anything is purely because someone else long before we cared reached down in their heart to give me a start and so sooner or later I’d have to love someone. Extending grace to others is unnatural but spiritually it is such a reinvigorating exercise that it really feels as if Jesus Himself is working through my character and ability to bring this about. The people do not deserve it and their behaviour, thoughts and words would indicate the opposite. As with these grace expressions, though my initiative is not based on responding or reacting, but on love. A love poured into my heart by God Himself.

For His Name's Sake



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