While thinking about this piece I wanted to write on grace I wanted to familiarize myself with how to define the word grace. I have decided for this piece to paraphrase it simply as “eloquence or beauty of form or manner”. I think of grace further defined as “eloquence in action as well as in form”. When I think of a life that embodies grace, I visualize it lived as a beautifully choreographed dance. It isn’t a dance executed to perfection, but one that flows beautifully, stepping round and turning through those unexpected obstructions of life.
But life isn’t experienced alone and how we extend our grace to others in our lives speaks volumes about who we are compared to who we want to be.
Finding a person who truly embodies grace is difficult these days. We live in a world where jealousy and judgment run rampant and no one bats an eye when sharing or hearing gossip. Revenge is encouraged and acceptable as not to allow offenders to get away with their deeds. And as long as exclusion can be rationalized, what’s the harm, right? But what happened to grace? What happened to extending grace to others who dance in and out of our lives, not just to those we feel deserve it? In light of current events, it isn’t too far fetched to say that grace is a huge piece missing from the world today. Instead of grace, we see slandering, name calling, and judgment. Our children are learning that those holding high position(s) of power get where they are by ruthless tactics and not by grace. Shouldn’t those who claim to lead by example have some small bit of grace as part of their character?
In theological terms, grace is defined as “freely given and undeserving favor of God, the influence of the spirit of God that gives strength to a believer, or a virtue of divine origin”. I think the most important word defining grace in theological terms is “undeserving”. The word undeserving is also becoming an offensive word in the world today. Some people don’t want to work as hard as their ancestors at what they desire but feel like they have just cause to have whatever it is they want right away. They are entitled. Sadly, I have been very guilty of an entitled nature myself. I get frustrated and want things to change right away. I get so frustrated with the difficulty of our circumstances that I ask God, “Just give me something to ease my load.” I think I deserve it, but I don’t. I am not deserving of the grace I think I’m entitled to but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been given it. Grace has been an eloquent pardon of my offenses and undeserving gifts, either by another human or by the divine.
My husband reminds me of the true nature of grace daily. I am not the woman he married eleven years ago. I have advanced rheumatoid arthritis and in the two years since my diagnosis, the disease has progressed enough to damage the joints and bones throughout most of my body. Whereas I feel like I have to prove my daily pain and physical limitations to other people, he never asks me to explain why I cannot finish even the most remedial tasks. Often he comes home and supper isn’t started and I’m laying in bed consumed with pain, but he doesn’t question me about the kids, the house, or what I could have done, he gives me grace. He makes supper, cleans up, and helps get the kids to bed. He extends me grace I know I need but I don’t often feel like I deserve. Without that grace, our marriage would never survive. We also have a disabled child with complex medical issues and if we didn’t allow one another certain graces, we would have never found a way stay together with all the challenges we face. My husband doesn’t come home and ask, “What about me?” He asks, “What can I do to help?” His grace makes me want to keep trying because I know how hard he tries for me. My husband could tell me he understands, but without his actions, the words would be empty. It would send a conflicting message. His grace could quite possibly be what has saved our marriage and what has kept my dwindling hope alive. He never let’s his “but” get in the way. “I would help but I’m tired too.” “I could be there but I’m too busy.” “I could accept the apology but I’m still too hurt.”
I may not have said that last statement out loud, but I have thought it. Forgiveness is a hard part of having a graceful nature. I know it’s very hard for me to forgive and extend grace to people who have caused me hurt, especially those who have been the cause of hurt more than once. Deep down I have wanted to withhold my grace and turn my back, cutting ties with those who have hurt me repeatedly. Sometimes cutting ties is necessary, but the people who are hurting others repeatedly are often hurting themselves. We may not be in the position to help that person or heal their hurt, but extending our grace, no matter how hard, is a good place to start.
Everyone needs grace, whether we think they deserve it or not. I am thankful for the many times others have given me grace and especially thankful of God’s graces. Fourteen years ago I was seeking forgiveness over my failed marriage. I asked forgiveness, but I also received God’s grace. His grace put my husband into my life at a time when I feel like I didn’t deserve it. His grace gave me a friend when I really needed it. Grace gave me the husband that would love me in our years of health and now my sickness. God gave me love I was never good enough to deserve. It’s a good thing God doesn’t listen to me when it comes to what I deserve. He knows those circumstances in my life that others didn’t know or understand and gave me His abundant grace. I am so glad he did, because I know nothing I have done deserves anything God has to offer.
Grace has saved me. I have hope because I have been given me grace. I can be something contrary to this world when I follow the examples of those who extend it to me. Thank God for grace!