Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Perhaps the most difficult thing to understand about grace is that even when grace is given, it is always the gift. That is, grace does not offer gifts other than itself. Or, as I said it earlier this week, grace only makes things possible, not necessary.

This is an idea that I have had to throw around in my own head for quite awhile just to try to get a grasp on it because I, too, can easily fall into the idea that grace comes bearing gifts, rather than being the gift itself. I, too, can easily believe that grace does all the work. I, too, can so easily subscribe to the idea that when it comes to grace, my job is to sit at the head of the table with the party hat on my head, ready to unwrap whatever good thing grace has given me, for I have been such a good girl this year.

Then I open the box and discover those dreaded words: some assembly required.

Here's where it's easy to get off track. Because we read these words, or at least, I do, and I think that it's grace that must be assembled. I think that it's grace that must be put together. I feel like God has put this grace as a tangled thread before me, and that it's up to me to weave it into the rest of my life. But that's not it at all. Grace is never the tangled thread; it's the starter piece. It's the one thing stretched taut throughout our existence, the thing we are forced to weave the rest of our lives around.

What requires assembly is the rest of our being.

Think again about the Cross. As we saw yesterday, the Cross is the place where we come to discover that grace is not fair; it's amazing. And at the very moment that God hung His Son on that Cross, in the same breath at which He turned His face away, as the earth shook and the curtains tore and the stone rolled both in front of and away from the grave, this tremendous grace poured out on all Creation. It was the grace to set things right again. It was an invitation to Eden.

An invitation, but not an escort.

See, the Cross doesn't save us. Not without our consent. God did not die on the Cross just to sweep everyone back into His arms with one fail swoop. We still have to choose grace. We have to accept His gift. We have to embrace His offer. As He holds out His arms and calls to us, we have to open our arms to Him, as well. Unless we do that, we are not saved. So this amazing grace, this blood poured out, it makes salvation possible, but not necessary. It is given, but it's not given. That's where faith comes in.

And this is also where we can see our attitudes toward grace shine through. Because most of us have spent the past 2000 years trying to assemble this grace from the story of the Cross. We've been trying to put it together in a way that makes sense. We've been trying to untangle the mystery of Jesus Christ, as though figuring out this one thing is the thing that will save us, the thing that will make this grace ours.

But if there's one thread in this world that's not tangled, it is the scarlet thread flowing from Calvary. And God never asked us to weave this into our own stories; He called us to weave our own stories around this. Rather than trying to make this Jesus one theme of our lives, one adornment of our tapestry, our call is to make Him the center of it. This is the place where all things being. This is the one point of reference we've got for making sense of our lives. And that's all we can really do.

Because nobody can make sense of grace. It's that far beyond us.

That's why grace takes faith. It takes believing in something that we can't quite understand. It takes trusting in something we only know in dances of shadow and light. It takes staking ourselves on the whisper that all of this is real, that it's true, that it's...amazing. And going from there.

Grace is not a given, but it's an incredible gift. No assembly required. 

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