Monday, October 7, 2013

The Grace That Lingers

It was on a church hay ride so many years ago now.  A young boy, the adopted son of a friend, did something dastardly of which he had been gently corrected just a few minutes before.  I don't remember the actual deed or the disobedience, but after all this time, I still remember how his mother handled it.

She did not react.  She responded.  And grace lingered in the air.

Most parents would have been too occupied by the presence of so many people around.  What will they think of my misbehaving child?  What will they think of me, the imperfect parent of unruly sinners?

But my sweet friend's focus was only on her son, as if the two of them were a hundred miles from any other person. Right there in the dust and hay, she knelt down to where she was eye to eye with her five year old son.  She tenderly took his hand.  And looked right into his eyes.  I could see and feel her gentleness.  She spoke quietly to him.  I could not hear her words, but I watched the boy's face melt from a stance of rebellion to repentance, that which only grace can do.

It was not the first time he had disobeyed.  I know it was not the last.

Grace is not a free pass to get away with whatever you want.  Grace does not turn its eyes away, but turns its vision toward, not to the action, but towards the person.  Grace does not expect perfection or performance, but surpasses by showing love to others in a meaningful way, to teach what is good and right, like velvet over steel.  Think conversation.  A harsh confrontation escalates emotions and turns the focus not on the misdeed but on your anger.  A child never forgets anger, nor grace.  Anger destroys, grace builds.

As pediatrician and psychiatrist  Dr. Grace Ketterman says, don't let what is right get mixed up with who is "going to win" this battle. 

O LORD, forgive my trespasses and have mercy on me.

I was not the only one who saw my friend respond that day.  I heard others say, "Well, she is just gifted that way.  She is special and that is how she does it."

But I know she has no super powers of her own. The difference was her heart preparation.  Even before she became a parent to four special needs kids, God prepared her heart through an intense "boot camp" of tough experiences she could not understand and through a deep daily immersion in His Word.  She learned the way of grace by letting God change her heart and "doing grace" in her own tough places, both big and small.  "He equipped me before marriage or kids,"  she once told me, "for what I am doing now."

And in the process, "I could feel His Word wash over me," she said.

Whether tough family situations, or unruly co-workers or customers, don't let difficulties (or difficult people!) take you by surprise. God's Word is what holds you together when the crises emerge out of thin air in the most inconvenient times and places.  Learning to rely on His strength is what gets you through. And His grace is what lingers.

For we are the aroma of Christ...

                    2 Corinthians 2.15

And He said to me,
    "My grace is sufficient for you,
for My power
is made perfect in weakness."

                    2 Corinthians 12.9

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