Saturday, February 6, 2016

Now the Hard Part

Grace in Action

     I've been talking a lot about grace. I claimed that I would choose to be more gracious instead of expecting grace from others. Nice thought isn't it? Well for the past couple of days, God has been giving me lots of opportunists to put grace in my face. It has been very, very, difficult. 
     He is not doing it to be smug. He is not doing it to play games and show me who's boss, even though He IS in charge and has every right to be. Just like everything He does, God is sending me these challenges out of love. He loves me so much He is unwilling to leave me alone in own selfishness. So when I challenged myself to be more like Him, He blessed me in some really uncomfortable ways while still being exceedingly gentle. 
    It's been un-fun, but if you hang with me I'll share a lovely story with you: one of the sweetest examples of grace I've ever heard. Get a hanky ready now. But first suffice it to say I've been tested. Two or three encounters with some of my most irksome pet peeves have given me the chance to practice what I've preached. It's ranged from stupid, subjective annoyances to genuinely intrusive acts of disrespect. But it doesn't matter because I'm still accountable for how I handle it.
    I'll be honest, I haven't behaved as well as I had hoped. While I have responded kindly, or not at all, I've still fumed. I've ranted and vented to my husband about what bothered me. While I did not attack or vent my feelings to the people who presented the annoyances, my heart resisted. Jeremiah 17 talks about how wicked our hearts are "deceitful" and "beyond cure". Thankfully, I don't have to rely on my own strength. If I did I would have no chance at all of success. 
     But God never, ever presents a challenge, or assigns a task, or calls us to obey and then sits back with His arms folded, waiting for us to mess it all up. He's right in it with us. Ahead of us and behind us. It's not by my own strength that I will face my trials with grace, but only with His help. Like I said in an earlier post, it won't be easy. But I won't be alone. 
     So what does grace look like? It's kind of a hard thing to describe. "Unmerited Favor" is the accurate but Sunday Schoolish, somewhat obscure, answer. So here's an example, the story I promised to relay to you. Grace in action.
     My husband came home from work the other day and told me this story that a coworker had told tohim. This man, I'll call him Tom, has a daughter who is divorced. Like in many situations there is hurt and animosity between Tom's daughter and her ex-husband. And unfortunately their children are sometimes the victims of the problems of their parents.  It happened on a weekend visit, the kids were on an outing with their dad. They were excited when he took them to Build-A-Bear, but excitement turned to disappointment when he told them that only one of them would be getting a toy that day. The others would have to wait. The little girl, I'll call her Anne, chose a bear and took it home with her to her dad's house. But when their mother arrived to take them home their dad refused to let Anne take the bear home. It would have to stay at his house and she could only play with it when she was there. There were tears. Anne's mother had to distract so they could  go back home. 
    When Tom and his wife heard about the disappointments of the weekend they stepped in. Their hearts hurt for their grandkids and they wanted to help make up for a little of it if they could. They went on their own trip to Build-A-Bear and this time the other two children got to pick out toys. The little boy I'll call Nick chose a bear just like Anne's. He wanted one just like his big sister's.
   And when he had it all done, he gave it to her. 
   Where an adult had used manipulation and selfishness, a little boy put his sister first. He used grace to turn away wrath when he had every right to take his own turn. Instead he got in the back of the line and let his sister go first. Again. 
     Children should not have to clean up messes that adults make. This story humbles me when I think about how I react when I feel someone has violated my rights. I could shove back, But instead I want to step back. What a difference there is between childishness and childlikeness. Sometimes age has nothing to do with it. Sometimes grace has everything to do with it.

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