The God Identity: Grace

Identity by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I spent this past holiday weekend with two people who have hurt me recently. One is a younger girl friend that has leaned heavily on me this past year, only to disappear during the last few months when I’ve been struggling. The other is a friend of hers—a guy who used me over the course of the last year to meet his touch and attention needs yet ran the moment I became vulnerable with him. When I realized they would be attending the beach weekend, I prayed about whether to go. I asked my best friend, who told me to stay home—and I countered by saying that I was rusty in the area of grace and needed to practice. I even encouraged my bestie to show some grace to a girl in his life that had recently hurt him. So I went, had a blast spending time with friends besides those two, and tried to show grace for those two while keeping appropriate boundaries.

How do you move forward from hurt? How do you face someone who has hurt you and willingly forgive her? How do you draw a fine line between forgiveness and trust? We struggle with the answer to these questions, but the answer is simple: grace. But while the answer is simple, grace itself is hard, and here are two reasons grace has been difficult for me:

  • Grace hurts. Christ died for us while we were still sinners. He was crucified—a very painful death process that involved excruciating pain for hours and hours. There was not only physical pain, but the emotional pain of being separated from His Father and abandoned by His friends. So grace, by its very nature from the original Giver of grace, is painful for the one who gives it. This morning while rehearsing our worship set, I burst into tears in the middle of a song about Jesus rescuing us. I cried through our whole worship set. I have cried all day because of the intense emotional pain I felt this weekend—the pain of closure, the pain of the changing friendship with my gal pal, the pain of fighting against my flesh since last Wednesday, the pain of my own need for grace. But I also know this is a tiny fraction of the pain Jesus suffered for me—so I need to suck it up.
  • Grace is God-centered, not feelings-centered. Grace usually asks us to act the exact opposite of what we are feeling. The moment I saw the guy who had hurt me, I wanted to hit him with my car. When he said he left something we needed at his house, I wanted to make him and everyone else suffer without the items. When he got sick with diarrhea and spent part of the weekend in bed, I wanted to laugh and make fun of him. Instead of doing these things, I tried to push down those feelings and think about what God would do. When I saw him, I greeted him with a smile. I offered to and did take him to his house to pick up the forgotten items. I asked if he was okay after his bathroom bouts. I even left later from the beach than I originally wanted so that he and his friends could enjoy a boat ride. I wasn’t perfect, though: I did laugh at his “predicament,” I was annoyed about leaving later, and I was less than nice to him on occasion. But that was a reminder for me that I, too, need grace—from God and others. Grace is not just about serving those who are good to us; grace is about serving the undeserving—those who don’t love or serve us. Jesus died for all sinners, and that includes me and you.

Grace may be challenging but I have to keep working at it. The more I stop focusing on my feelings and start focusing on God, the less pain I will experience. I won’t be perfect at showing grace in this lifetime, but I can keep practicing. And since practice makes perfect, I look forward to reaching that state of perfection with God—when there will be no more crying or pain.

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