And yet, after a year of experiencing His grace in profoundly spiritual and mystical ways that have affected my spirit and even my sense of who I am but yet without surfacing in the so called real life of where I live each and every day. To be sure, grace has shown up in my relationship with God in deep and intensely personal ways. It has revolutionized how I see Him and how I perceive His love for me. Grace has been about me. My sin, my problems, my issues, my peace, my joy, my strength....its been inwardly focused.
And justifiably so. If grace cannot change me to my core, then what good is it? My revelation of who He is and what He has done for me must first change me. Then and only then can His grace flow not just to me but from me. And so the last year has been about recognizing and reveling in His grace toward me. Changing my outlook on eternity. Changing the way I view the Good News....how its presented, how it affects me and others, changing my mind (true repentance) about who Jesus is and what He really did on the cross.
And yet grace with minor exceptions has not really affected how I live outwardly. I'm more joyful even in the face of circumstances that would otherwise prevent joy. I'm more at peace with uncertainty knowing that He has only good for me. I no longer chafe under guilt and shame for misdeeds both great and small as I know He has already forgiven them and in fact, doesn't even remember them, so if He doesn't condemn me, why should I condemn myself? I see everything through the prism of grace.....but.....
Practically speaking my interactions with others have not changed substantially. I still get angry easily, less so than before but still, I feel I should be slower to anger, frustration sets in pretty quickly when things don't go my way or people can't see my point of view even though its clearly superior to theirs. Forgiveness and kindness are not my normal modus operendous.
Just when I was thinking that grace would be my lifelong companion but would really only affect my spirit life, a blast from the past steps in and sets that way of thinking on its rear.
Ten years ago, a Christian man did me wrong in business. No details here but suffice to say, it hurt and even when I tried to follow up with him after the fact and find out what was going on, he refused to take my calls and never once got back to me. Then over the last few years, I'd see him at functions or around town here and there. Always he treated me as though nothing had happened. This was a man I'd had in my home and treated quite well. As time went by, I began to harbor ill will toward him. I was glad when he lost his job. Then I found out quite by happenstance that he had done a couple of other things that reinforced my opinion of him. In my heart I was glad he was such a dirty rotten person...I felt vindicated that it was him and not me that caused the issues many years ago.
Then I found out his wife works at my daughters school. She greeted us as though all was peachy keen....my face smiled but my heart was black with distrust and spite. Meanwhile, grace was overflowing my heart, revealing how much I was forgiven, bringing peace and joy.....I was smug and happy I was being shown this wonderful grace that was brought to me by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Content to walk happily along secure in my knowledge of who I am in Christ.
Then yesterday, I was eating my .85 burrito at Del Taco and who should walk in....but the man himself. In his smug little shirt and tie looking as though he was innocent of all wrong doing. I was hoping he wouldn't notice me....but alas, straight to my table he came.
Not only did he head straight my way but to my utter disappointment, he sat down and asked if we could talk. I didn't want to talk, not now, not ever...but civility demanded at least a cursory attempt at conversation. No way could he know how much I resented his very presence.
After some brief and awkward small talk, he said to me, "I've been wanting to tell you this for a decade, but I've been very sorry about what happened back then but I've never really had the chance or the courage to say it". Crap....he's apologizing. Now what? No way can I act like all is forgiven, its been too long with to many wasted chances to apologize for him to do this now. So with my mouth I said no problem.....water under the bridge, but in my heart, I didn't mean it. No way no how.....
A few more minutes of small talk and off he went to get his food and a few more minutes pass and I get up and leave. I never gave it a second thought. Whats done is done.
However, the Holy Spirit had other ideas about the whole incident.
Moments after turning out of Del Taco's parking lot, clearly and without any question I heard, "freely you have received, free give." What? Who? WHY.......but it came again, "you have received my grace freely, how dare you not freely give it." My heart broke. I recognized my beloved voice. His firm but gentle correction coming from the throne of grace.
So rather than turn around and go fix it, I told God if I saw this man in the next day or two, I'd make right how badly I'd handled his apology and then if the opportunity presented itself, I'd explain how grace led me back to him for that purpose.
Off I went to finish my errands for the day. I had two or three more stops to make and then back to the house. My last stop was to run the car through the car wash to get rid of all the bird poop it had accumulated over the last few days.
I entered the car wash listening to the radio, sat as the machine went back and forth and as the final rinse was spraying over my windshield, I got ready to exit and go through the dryer.
Something you need to know, this car wash is set up with some car vacuum stations just behind the drive through wash section. As you drive through the air dryer, you can see two of these vacuum stations right in front of you. And as I began to enter the drying area, who do you think was in the very first vacuum station?
My nemesis was right there, vacuuming his car out. Not in one of the other dozen or so car washes in town. This one, right in front of me at exactly the same time as I was. This could not be coincidence and remembering my promise to God to make it right with this guy, I laughed out loud at how He had set this up.
I pulled over to this guy, shouted above the noise of the vacuum to get his attention and fulfilled my promise to God. Of course he was far more gracious with my apology than I had been with his but as I drove away, the only thing I could think about was how much I'd been forgiven and little I tend to forgive.
Grace is practical. It can and should affect every area of our life. As I drove on, I talked to God about clearing my life of the garbage ten years of unforgiveness had brought me and to restore all that had been damaged.
Practical grace. Not just for me but for every one everywhere for every reason and every occasion. Grace covers it all.