It’s a hard thing. I’ll say it. I’ll own up to it.
Grace is not easy.
Ask the wife of an alcoholic who loses control. Ask a soldier’s widow. Ask the once-husband-and-father after the accident that left him single and alone.
Ask the spurned ex-spouse who watches their one true love walk away with the lover.
Ask the burned employee who gave it all but wouldn’t compromise morals.
Ask the families of the victims.
Grace isn’t easy.
I have friends who have endured each of these situations, and they will all agree.
Nothing about grace is easy.
They will cry and yell and rage and then get quiet. They will say that it isn’t easy. They will push you away even as they pull you close.
And that’s grace, isn’t it?
The rejection of pain and suffering and sorrow. The embrace of a friend and love and acceptance. All at once, like a roller coaster that pulls you down while pushing you up, grace casts off injury and draws in wholeness. Like a divine and simultaneous inhale/exhale, that which is foul and used up is replaced with the freshest of air.
It’s getting punched in the gut and that first kiss at the same time.
It’s death and life. It’s brokenness and wholeness. It’s absence and presence all at once.
Grace goes against the fiber of our lives. It seems incompatible and impossible. It is NOT a boomerang, nor is it karma, nor can it be loaned out and repaid with interest. Perhaps it can be found, then lost and then found again but we have such a tendency to forget what it looks like that I wonder if we would even know it the second time around. And if we lost it the first time, wouldn’t we be more prone to lose it again, over and over and over?
It’s easier to reject than to forgive. It’s easier to repel than embrace. It’s easier to cast aside than to repair. It’s easier to hate than it is to love. Hate requires little investment and offers tremendous returns. Love demands it all and guarantees nothing in return.
“Raca” is easy. “I’m sorry” is not.
Lest we get confused, though, looking the other way is not grace. Turning the other cheek is.
Permission is not grace. Accountability is.
Ignorance, willful or otherwise, is not grace. Ownership–of all of it– is.
There is no grace vending machine where you put in your money and push B4 and get your fresh, cold beverage that absolves you of responsibility or consequence. There is no automatic dispensary that permits you to make mistake after mistake after mistake without change.
Nor is the church the pharmacy of the divine administering doses to those who have the correct papers or the right IDs. Contrary to popular belief, they do not decide who receives it or how much is appropriate for them.
So what does grace look like?
I would say that it’s different for every single one of us. It’s a finely tailored suit, cut and measured and perfectly aligned just to you. It’s unmatched in quality and exquisite in fit and feel. You will never find a better suit no matter how hard or how far you look.
It’s as if the tailor himself made not only the suit, but also the person within it.
It’s a custom-built home that meets every need of your past, present and future. It will hold your children and their children and all of the things they will accumulate in this life. It will guard you and protect you against all of life’s storms.
It’s as if the architect built the home, perfect in every detail, for himself and then handed you the keys.
It’s a meal that satisfies you completely. It is meticulously prepared to your taste. It’s perfectly healthy and thoroughly delicious. Each bite flawless and flavorful. Each dish somehow impossibly more impeccable than the last.
It’s as if the chef used everything he knew and had ever experienced to create this one perfect meal, just for you.
Maybe that’s what grace looks like.
Or maybe it’s even better.