A few things. On Monday afternoon, we emerged from our French class feeling like we had the beginnings of some genuine friendships in the making. That uh-oh, we might be getting slightly attached, kind of dangerous sensation that's come up a few other times as well. On the way home, the children and I rode our bikes to the neighborhood store to get dinner bread, and the sun, so rare in the past week or so, bathed us in afternoon light like an almost tangible mantle of grace. Never deserved, but freely given.
That night, we had a couple, Adam and Ania, over for dinner. They're sweet newlyweds still, endearingly proud of the ultrasound photo of their first child. A casual question led to an hour or more of our entire family sitting rapt as Adam related the epic saga of his journey from spiritual darkness and death to a joyful life in Christ (and marriage to Ania), the answer to his search for the meaning of human life. Adam wasn't sure that he'd ever told the whole story before. As he talked, with Ania filling in her side of the story, it was like the light of God's astonishing grace spilling over our table.
A line from Laura Story's lovely song "Grace" keeps winding through my head.
"I see the things You do for me,
As great things I have done."
It's tempting to look at the adjustments we're making, the experiences we're having, as achievements. As proofs of some sort of resilience or strength of character or attitude. How foolish. How proud. Everything -- every event, every new friendship, every lesson, every well-chosen response and every repentance for the ill-chosen -- it's all a gift that He supplies to us or through us.
That's the key, isn't it? Letting go of the secretly cherished notion that we deserve anything. Actually, as a sinner, I deserve death. That was the original bargain with my ancient ancestor. God owes me nothing. And He owed my dad nothing.
But that sounds so harsh. Wasn't it unfair of God to send a crippling and terminal illness to a good man who loved Him?
What I think my dad realized -- and really, who knows the depth of what silently passed between him and his Father each suffering day -- and what the two years since his passing have made me realize, is that there is no "fair and unfair" with God. There is simply His justice, which none of us could withstand ... and His mercy, so lavish it seems common.
Ian and I are reading The Holiness of God right now, and I just can't say it better than R.C. Sproul.
"We have come to expect God to be merciful. From there the next step is easy: We demand it. When it is not forthcoming, our first response is anger against God ... We soon forget that with our first sin we have forfeited all rights to the gift of life. That I am drawing breath this morning is an act of divine mercy. God owes me nothing."
So easy to forget that His paying my debt to justice doesn't mean He is now in MY debt, no?
And: "When God's justice falls [as seen in some Old Testament examples], we are offended because we think God owes perpetual mercy. We must not take His grace for granted. We must never lose our capacity to be amazed by grace."
On a sunny afternoon where worries are few ... grace is there.
On a rainy day where gray skies close in ... grace is there.
At a dinner table where the power of the gospel blazes forth ... grace is there.
In the memory of a man who learned to give and receive it, and in the missing him ... grace is there.
In the faces of the loved ones still sharing breath with us -- and, let's be honest, still leaving their socks on the living room floor ... grace is also there.
Because grace isn't something God parcels out willy-nilly, is it? It's just Himself. He finds us, hunts us down even, and somehow the God of the universe, without compromising His holiness or justice, delights to give Himself to us, however and whenever we'll take Him. I marvel at being made in the image of such a Father.