I spent yesterday in bed. Why? Really I am not sure. I just felt empty and uninspired. Yet, in that moment where I slept more than thought I sensed that I was fighting something bigger than myself. Why in this moment did I want to shut down and not face the “whatever” I sensed was bugging me. Oh, and I hate to confess this so openly, it was the first day I tried to stop smoking cigars. Yep… addicted again to the devil’s weed. Arrgh.
It was not that facing the prospect of not smoking though that was bothering me. It was in a sense the idea of having lunch with a friend I had not spent time with for a while. Again, I was not sure of the “why” I was feeling as I was. I slept instead of facing the strange desire to call him and make up some excuse. “I am just too busy today.” “I have too much homework today.” “I don’t feel well today.” All excuses… to not face this strange feeling of dread…
Now, I finally got up. I had stayed up way to late as it seems I do too often and am doing now as I write this. I stayed up until 4:30 am Sunday. I know that is part of the reason I slept so much Monday. Yet, when I woke a noon, I just did not feel like getting up and out to face the day. I did check my blood sugar which was much too high again and took the dose of insulin. I also took care of some bodily functions that need attending…. Yet instead of going out and seeing what type of day God gave me today… I went back under the covers and hid. Sleep gave me the comfort and grace to face the day I dared not face.
My friend is a good guy though he is a bit messed up. He smokes, which I can’t hold it against him as I seem also to have this unhealthy fixation with tobacco, yet also he is stuck in a hold that seems to in able him to get a job and live his life more fully. He medicates himself with what is illegal in many states as he has horrendous back pains he says has kept him from working. We have prayed for healing and yet it seems that it does not come. He believes that this substance should be legal and is one of the best ways to help people like him. I agree that some people who have cancer or other issues may need this, yet I wonder for him if it is his “staying in bed all day” remedy. I try not to judge him about this as I know he loves Jesus as much as I do… maybe more. I also wonder though if I have the right to tell him that this may not be the remedy he truly needs. By the way, I do not indulge in his remedy if you were wondering.
No, I have my own that I face. Not “illegal in some states” types maybe, rather I tend towards things like eating, or in the case of Monday, shutting down.
It seems though as I woke up at 1:30 this morning that Grace is on my mind. Not at first, as I took a walk to buy a cigar and cursed my failings. I took a drive and listened to a recent book on tape about grace and found that just maybe that is what I was hiding from. You see, I believe I am grace to my friend. I am that safe space where he can be himself with all his flaws and find acceptance. I also realized my friend is grace to me. This was a bit of a shock as I thought about it. God’s grace covers our shortcomings. I am not saying that we should pursue our short comings as most often those are unhealthy ways of dealing with life. I see my friend in a bit of a different light tonight as I write this. I desire to fix him, yet also see I cannot fix myself so how could I fix anyone else. I sometimes wonder if God cares about fixing us… as I see that God seems more intent on making New Things out of the old. Is this the same? I do not think so as I ponder this idea.
Grace is not an easy thing to explain let alone understand. Theologians have many different ideas, yet as I studied them I get the feeling that in all their certainty, they are truly not arrived at any real conclusion. Is Grace truly just getting what we don’t deserve? Is there more to Grace than some theological definition? Of that I am certain. To me Grace is the very substance that holds all creation together. I see no “common grace” as some teach, nor do I see the many other number of breakdown explanations theologians give. Instead, I see the same God that spoke all things into existence is the same God that can un-speak all He created as if it never was… yet chooses not to.
I see Grace in Jesus. Funny to say that as it should be so obvious. I see in Him who all creation came, as one who could have “fixed” things. Please don’t get me wrong, in a way Jesus did. Yet, instead we find Jesus in a sense failing. Yes, I said it. Here was the King of all creation laying down His life and letting those sick little creatures call humans nail Him to a Cross. Jesus should have done some major house cleaning like He cleaned the Temple. Yet, it seems that God chooses a different path that what we humans see as best. Often I desire the God that sent down balls of fire and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. I want the quick fix that would let people see God and tremble and bow down low… yet, God seems content in giving us days we cannot face and then pouring out Love in the form of Grace on us.
Even in my own definition of Grace I come up short. Much too short I must confess. Grace is more than a substance rather it is the radiance of Jesus. It is intangible yet in moments we experience it we cannot deny that it is more real than we are. I experience Grace in my children as I choose to discipline them or as I just watch them play. I experience Grace in music. I experience Grace when I am playing in the worship band and hit the right notes on my guitar. I experience Grace as I sit with those who I see as much more in tune spiritually than I am. I see Grace as I drive by the bars at night or see a drunk staggering to find a warm place to sleep. I experience Grace as I sit quietly or chatter excitedly about something I learned or… as it is more often relearned about God’s Word. I experience Grace in those I see as hurting. I experience Grace as I hurt and am not comforted… or when I am not. Grace is the touch of my wife as I tell her I failed. Grace is in her eyes even when I hurt her with my failings.
Grace is not easily explained. It can come in a lyric or a song, a bible verse… or your enemies. Yes, even in the choice of whether to set the record straight when some person states lies about me, I find Grace.
As I write this I am sure of one thing. Grace is humbling. In fact, in order to see it and experience it one must be humbled. I hold to many prideful things and in them only find dissatisfaction is my life. Grace drives out all that pride and in that moment of weakness, I find strength that was not there. Luther stated to “sin boldly”. More accurately Luther stated:
“If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world.
As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner.” -Martin Luther, in a letter to Phillip Melancthon
I will add, if I be bold enough to add to Luther’s words. That it is in the Person of Christ we find the New Creation Paul wrote of. For without Christ there is no true Grace. With out our sin we cannot find this Grace. I am not saying that we should live un-righteously, rather it is in this understanding we find the True Righteousness of Christ. We only begin to see our own failings as the contrast to the Life of Christ which as a believer now dwells in us. Yes, “sin boldly” yet with the understanding of our need for the Righteousness of Christ to drive us to live out His Life in us. For in our failings we find Grace and in our triumphs through Jesus, we give Grace to others.