CONFESSION: Grace is the most frustrating and difficult concept for me in the Christian faith. It’s really a love-hate relationship. It shouldn’t be … but it is.
Take yesterday morning, for example.
I had to leave early, take a separate car, because Justice Network would be featured in the morning services and we needed to set up a table. We try to protect our kids from too much awareness about my work with Justice Network. They are only 9 and 10 and, while they know I co-lead the organization and that it tackles the injustices of modern-day slavery, they are beautifully ignorant of the atrocities related to sex trafficking. So there I was, all polished and driving to church on a beautiful day, when I passed a certain neighbor and her two dogs.
This neighbor and I do not get along. I needn’t elaborate on why, because that’s not the point of this story. The point is my response at seeing her on this particular sun-kissed autumn day. I fumed. My mind replayed our last encounter and I imagined what I should have said and how I could better put her in her place next time and then — I stopped. In that moment of ugliness, our beautiful God graciously convicted me of my attitude and my lack of grace toward this woman. The Holy Spirit reminded me of the buckets and buckets of grace I have received and how stingy and nasty I was to hoard that, not sharing an ounce with this neighbor, this woman who was also created in the image of our great God and loved by Him just as much.
Out loud — I love praying out loud when I’m all alone. — I confessed my shortcomings to God and asked Him to remove my ugly pride and fill me with His love, to help me see others the way He sees them and —
And then an idiot started crossing the street in front of me. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a man take as much time to walk across an intersection! Mind you, this is a sort of 5-points with a light and a stop sign and it’s the most frustrating spot to enter traffic. AND there were no cars, so it was the PERFECT set-up for me to get where I need to go to get to church on time and —
And that’s when I needed to re-start my prayer from the beginning.
Do you see what I mean?
To frost this lovely little cake of conviction, I had read Romans 7-8 just that morning. This is the passage where Paul talks about the battle of spirit and flesh, how he does what he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do what he does want to do.
Yup. Me and Paul. We’re Pot and Kettle.
I love that God showers me with grace, but, at the same time, I want to earn it. I want a few pats on the head to tell me what a good kid I am. Worse: I want other people to earn it, too. I wrote a bit out this last year. You can read that HERE.
My point is this: I can’t decide if it’s harder for me to receive grace or give it. The answer to that question doesn’t really matter at all. I clearly need to work on both responses.
As if in perfect orchestration, our youth pastor posted to the church blog this morning: 5 Practical Ways to Respond to God’s Grace.
I don’t know that I would title it the same. I mean, they are practical ways, but they are also wise steps. We can respond practically in a dozen negative ways. Trust me. I do it habitually. But to respond with wisdom is a rare practice. He offers some very simple and sound advice. Click on over there and read what he wrote.
TALK TO ME: What are the most frustrating points of faith for you? Do you struggle with grace the way I do?