Risky Grace   6 comments

This morning I was cruising down Lakeside Drive when a pokey car from a side street turned in front of me.  That’s one of my pet peeves.  If a driver feels some aggressive need to pull in front of me, fine, just go fast enough to stay out of my way.  I stepped on my brakes and would have forgotten it, except the guy slowed down even more, creeping into a gas station.  “REALLY!?” I ranted to my dashboard, “You had to cut me off ’cause you were in a hurry to… STOP?”

I can self-justify with the best, but I’m not so far gone as to equate my petty irritations with righteous indignation.  I knew I wasn’t channeling Jesus with my defensive driving.

This also suggests a serious limitation to that great advice to “be in the moment.”  Oh, I was in the moment, all right, totally in the moment, that scowling, growling, hand-clenching moment.  Sometimes you need to get out of the moment, be a little less present, to grasp the bigger picture.

So I tried to talk myself down.  I noticed that he was a geezer, and they do everything slower, everything.  But I’ve played that chess game with myself before, so I know all the moves.  I responded with, “Hey, driving faster takes no extra strength. Retirement ain’t gonna slow me down.  That’s no excuse.”  “Ah,” said my mental opponent, “And how many wrecks will your age-diminished reactions cause before you slacken your speed?”  Okay, that was a surprise, a new argument that sounded suspiciously like my wife.  How did she get in my head?  That’s totally unfair–two against one.

But her voice is the one I really want to hear, not because it is right, making me wrong and bad, but because it is gracious.  She wants to find peace through mutual acceptance of our weaknesses.  In contrast, I find that when everyone follows the rules, we all get along.  Legalistic happiness.  It’s pretty common in church.

The problem is when we screw up… and we all screw up.  The law has no margin for error, so it makes us all losers, and we scramble to escape that weight of condemnation.  Each time others break our rules, rules that ensure our safety, we feel slighted, devalued, and disrespected, and even small slights cut deeply because we already agree with them, we believe we deserve no respect.  When someone cuts me off in traffic, I feel less of a person, so I get defensive.  In my relationships I push others to change, to conform, to live in a way that does not tear open my self doubt.  Everyone, follow the rules!

The voice of grace sounds so small and useless against such visceral drives, and it calls me to abandon the very thing that is protecting my fragile sense of well-being: my ragged record of good, which is my only justification for squeezing others into line.  Grace whispers that we are loved regardless of our record, that we are valued fully even in our failures.  But I find it hard to trust.  Grace is like oxygen–once you let it in, it is available to everyone in the room.  If you allow grace to cover you as a loser, then it necessarily covers all losers, and then you have to drop your legalistic demands.  But their flawed conformity to rules is the only thing keeping me protected.  For all its defects and failures, the legal system looks pretty safe, and grace looks pretty risky.  No wonder faith is the only way into grace.

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Posted February 16, 2014 by janathangrace in Personal, thoughts

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6 responses to “Risky Grace

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  1. I really connect with this! I confess to more than once blasting my horn at someone as I pass them after they have turned in front of me and slowed me down. Thank you for sharing this.

    I love your wife’s heart! The feeling I have when I respond in grace blesses me; the feeling I have when I respond in anger is physically unpleasant.

    Grace! ’tis a charming sound, Harmonious to the ear; Heav’n with the echo shall resound, And all the earth shall hear.
    All sufficient grace! Never powerless! It is Christ who lives in me, In His exhaustlessness. ~Philip Doddridge

    • Thanks for sharing, Carol. I think many (most?) of us find that traffic brings out some latent stuff that often stays hidden. I think it has to do with the anonymity of being in our separate cars… probably the same thing that comes out in some internet interactions. I love my wife’s heart too! I want so much to settle more naturally into this grace perspective, but overcoming life-long fears is a slow process.

  2. When i realize on my own …just me struggling and trying I am a looser and then in the same breath really am a winner….what? Yes in all the dealings in life i have had when i have tried and tried at something what ever it may be I have found ” Gods strength is perfected in weakness…in my weakness…in my looserness that i have come to confess my weakness to Him that his strength is made perfect.
    I have found it helps me to Pray help Lord let me love people no matter what they are doing. So no matter if someone cuts you off, or is rude, or mean, or anything that would offend, you can by his power cast aside anger..bitterness…grudges. And the people who you may be around every day the one who offended …the ones who hurt you ..Anyone without grace of God would most certainly hold it against those kind of people…you can love them…still talk to them and laugh with them and they will wonder possibly what makes you different….Its that love ..joy..peace..grace and mighty power of God that causes us to love no matter what they are doing, bcause that is what God does every moment with all of us.
    The other day i was wondwering why some people i am around daily that they are unkind and mean and i was talking to God about it that i was offended…that i was being rejected and it made me sad and hurt…and God caused me to realize that Christ when on this earth was rejected and hurt and treated poor…and if anyone knows the feeling or the experience it is Jesus. That our rejection on this earth pales in compared to His rejection…i thought wow so true…but Jesus loves and continues to love even though he was so rejected by men. So i can see the bigger picture and love them no matter what they are doing, by Gods grace and His mighty power…perfected in my weakness….let me be weak in all things that God streath is magnified and made strong.

    • Thanks for sharing. I agree with you–when we discover that we are forgiven, undeservedly forgiven, fully forgiven with no strings attached, it gives us the breathing room to forgive others. And when we can truly believe we are loved, without any conditions or reasons but simply because we are children of God, it gives us the heart-space to welcome others in, even difficult others.

  3. Graciously profound.

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