Monday, July 11, 2016

An Expectation of Grace

One of the amazing opportunities that life affords me from time to time is the chance to extend grace to someone in a little need of it. I love moments like these because I understand how very often it is grace that makes things possible, and I love helping others to embrace the possibilities. But a few weeks ago, I seized one of these chances for grace and was met with an increasingly-common response that caused me to stop dead in my tracks. After extending grace to an individual in need of it, his prompt response was:

"That seems fair."

Fair. Fair??? No, brother. It's not fair. It's grace.

"Fair" is playing by the rules. "Fair" is following the letter of the law. "Fair" is making sure that you face the prescribed consequences for your transgression, that you fall into the very hole that you've dug for yourself, that you have to figure your own way out of things. "Fair" is that you're being treated the same way everyone else is being treated. "Fair" means that at just the moment when you feel like things have become impossible, they truly have, because things like this are only possible again with grace. And grace isn't fair.

I think it's got something to do with the entitlement that this world feels. It's a world where we've convinced everyone that anything is possible if you work hard enough, that anything is do-able if you set your mind to doing it. And so when something comes along that simply makes things possible, something like grace, then that's almost expected. Because things are supposed to be possible, aren't they? So it's not even grace any more; it's just the way things are supposed to be.

Faced with this response, I found myself in a new conundrum: grace isn't fair. But if I were going to convince this individual of that, I would have to do something inherently unfair, inherently ungracious. You might even say unjust. To rescind grace, or even to modify it, once it has been given, is to deny grace altogether. It changes the fundamental nature of the offer, making it somehow conditional. And grace, which is not fair, is also not conditional.

And so I find myself with an individual who still believes that grace is fair.

The truth, of course, is that this is, as are most things, a bit of pot, meet kettle. Because I think of all the times I have pleaded for grace from God just because I am burdened by the impossibility of the situation that I've gotten myself into. Just because I want a way out. I think of the times that I have not been able to breathe, where I haven't even been able to squeeze the air into my lungs, and the tears are streaming down my face, and I so long not to be trapped in my own impossibility. I know the bed that I have made for myself, and I ache for God to come and wake me from it. 

And when He does, it's so easy for me to think that's nothing special. That's just the way God does things. It's almost expected. 

It seems fair.

It seems fair to me that God would be God, and that I would be me. It seems fair to me that this God for whom all things are possible would make things possible for me. It seems fair to me that this God of second chances would give me yet another one. It seems fair to me that on the grounds of whatever excuse I have come up with this time - that I didn't mean it, that I didn't think it through, that I didn't know, that I messed up - this God would give me another chance at getting it right, simply because He knows I didn't mean to get it wrong. 

It seems fair to me...and not all that amazing. Because isn't this how things are supposed to be? Aren't things supposed to be...possible? Isn't God supposed to be...good? Isn't there supposed to be...grace? 

Lord, forgive me, for I have too often lost sight of the most amazing things. Things like grace, which are not givens in this world but are given nonetheless, even to a retch like me.

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