I have felt for a few weeks now that I wanted to write about grace. I pondered the specifics of that blog. I imagined that it would be pretty straightforward regarding the subject matter. I felt strongly about the topic of grace being the centerpiece of my next writing endeavor and I just knew the words would come. They would hug me like a warm blanket and pour out like a pitcher of cold, sweet tea. Alas, that was not the case. I did what any writer would do after inspiration failed to follow an idea. I figured that topic was not what I needed to dive into. I briefly abandoned the notion.
It is almost comical at this point how often I expect God to give me words without challenging my thinking first.
Recently I have discovered that when I think of grace, I also think about love, kindness, and forgiveness. Every single time I tried to sort out my thoughts, those words fenced in the idea of grace…an outline of grace’s perimeter. And so, for me, I could not write about grace in singularity. It is more of an equation. I’ve never much enjoyed math in any form. I love being engulfed in literature, vocabulary, and anything related to the written word. I’ve spent the majority of the last decade and beyond educating young minds in those very subjects. I faintly recall the one year where my principal told me she needed me to embrace flexibility (code talk for “I am about to tell you to do something you don’t want to do”). She asked me to step in and teach an advanced math class. That year was beyond tough for me. I knew the ins and outs of English & Language Arts and so on. But, I had to take an active role in studying, working out math problems, and double checking my work every night before I taught it to my students. It did not come easy to me. I finished out that year truly having accomplished something, but exhausted over the process. The next year, I was thrilled to return to my roots of teaching literature and writing. No more equations for this girl!
It seems fitting that the Lord would speak to me and connect my musings with math. Once again, I had to write out, categorize, and study the parts of the grace puzzle before I could present it to anyone and explain how I feel it is put together.
As I write on the topic of grace, I must acknowledge my precious, wonderful mom. She was my best friend. I lost her to cancer when I was 23 years old. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of her. And, being a mother myself now only magnifies how much I miss her. That is an area for further discussion at a later point. What I relate to with this particular post in reference to my mother is that she exuded grace. It radiated from her. I watched her love my father, who on many occasions was difficult to love. I witnessed her give to others when she had so little herself. I saw her forgive what many would consider unforgivable. I surveyed her effortless ability to show love unconditionally. She was the embodiment of grace.
Allow me to reflect on the happenings of a few weeks ago when I was forced into a situation where I was on the receiving end of a sharp tongue, unkind words, harsh criticism, and hateful rhetoric. I remember asking myself WWMD. What Would Mom Do? The great thing about that question is that I knew the answer. My mother would do what Jesus would do. She would be quick to forgive, rush to extend grace, and above all else, love. I am purposeful in modeling my life after my mother. I fall short much of the time. But, I persist, despite fatigue in doing so. I have found myself time and time again dealing with situations beyond my control that ask a lot from me – to forgive when someone has wounded me deeply….to lift up and encourage others who have torn me down….to unconditionally respond with grace, kindness, forgiveness, and love. I can’t tell you how many times I have told the Lord that I just need a break from situations that I keep having to repeat with people throughout my life.
I looked deeper into the word, grace. How does everything connect? The word, grace, itself is multi-layered in its definition make-up. It takes on various parts of speech and can be used in wide variety of contexts. It is synonymous with the following words: favor, acceptance, enhancement, blessing, respect, decency, & suspension. In order to extend grace to someone, you must be willing to agree to a lengthy checklist of agreeable terms. To give grace to someone is to say, “I will show you favor over consequence and punishment.” To give grace to someone is to say, “Not only do I accept you and your flaws, but I will respect you in spite of the fact that you’ve given me reason to doubt you.” To give grace to someone is to say, “I will suspend whatever judgement and derogatory thoughts I have and replace them with an open palm to take your hand in mine.” To give grace to someone is to say, “I will not only overlook the issue at hand, but I will go above and beyond to enhance who you are though reassurance and loving guidance.” Grace is an equation.
You have to face the problem, the person, the circumstance head on, and agree that your bitterness, frustration, and fear don’t allow you to remove essential variables from the calculation toward grace.
I’ve been accused in my life as being someone who doesn’t always stand up for myself….as someone who can get walked on by others with more dominant personalities and such. I have had people close to me frustrated that I have extended kindness to others who have either disregarded me or been unkind in their actions. There is indeed an often difficult balance of being a strong individual that simultaneously surrenders to the call of grace and forgiveness. When recently faced with an emotional interaction with someone close to me in which no grace was put in my direction, I called on the Lord to be my words for me. I was determined to fight my battle with love. I was determined to “slap” my antagonist with grace until it left a memorable red mark on their cheek. Kill them with kindness is how the saying goes, right?
In all seriousness though, I choose grace because God is grace. I choose acceptance because God accepts me. I choose to love because God has called me to love. It doesn’t matter which side of grace you find yourself today.
You are always going to wake up either being someone in desperate need of grace to be given or you are going to be the person whom God is leading to give grace.
There is a line from a Matthew West’s song that says, “There’s a war between guilt and grace and they’re fighting for a sacred space, but I’m living proof, grace wins every time.”
I would rather lay my head down on my pillow each night knowing that I erred on the side of grace rather than withholding it. I implore you today to give grace freely. Forgive. Choose to tell people that God has placed in your life that you care about them. Find any opportunity you can to make someone smile. Give selflessly with no conditions, no strings attached. Suspend your anger. Love. Simply love.