Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An otherworldly sort of gift

As I add more notches in my belt of life, some things that seemed black and white take on a grayish hue, while those things that were grayish stand out more starkly as black or white. At first, these discoveries can feel threatening, disorienting, disruptive. Then, they can feel strangely corrective, as if I my eyes needed glasses all this time and didn't know it. And finally, they can feel a tad amusing.

My perception of grace is one of these.

Having grown up, literally, in Christian community, I thought I understood grace a long time ago. The further I journey in my faith, however, the more clearly I see that, while I may be well educated in grace, I've barely scratched the surface of knowing it outside the classroom of theology. You see, grace cannot be understood with the head; it's got to be known through experience.

What in the world is this grace, exactly? For all my usage of the word, it's a little harder to pinpoint a concise definition. In a broad sense, grace is an extravagant gift received that is not deserved. A gift that no one could afford to pay back, even if they tried (and just look at so many of us living the Christian faith, we sure do try), and not only that, no payback is expected. The only required stance is one of open-handedness, receiving with a grateful heart.

In a more precise context - and this is where I lose people who haven't experienced this themselves - grace is none other than the gospel of Christ, revealed in the person of Christ. Grace takes on the form of Jesus, continually holding out this outrageous (dare I say, scandalous), free gift of salvation, love, redemption, peace, healing, wholeness and life - and the greatest gift of all, the invitation to know him intimately - to absolutely everyone, no holds barred, no strings attached.

The thing with grace is, the moment we try to work for it, earn it, be worthy of it, it slips from our grasp. We don't really get it yet. Similar to how, as soon as a person claims to be humble, we scratch our heads, take them less seriously. Obviously, they don't get it yet, either.

Those are my summarized, unsophisticated definitions. I realize I'm doing something I try not to do very often in my blog, and that's speak what may sound like Christianese. But you see, grace is not a word that people use very often outside of the Christian faith, except in reference to dancing or athletic ability or social skills, and so I want to clarify here that this is not the grace I'm referring to. The grace I'm referring to is an other-wordly sort of grace, and because of that, it's like trying to wrap your mind around the particulars of life in another planet.

What in the world is this grace, I ask again? Something not of this world.

More thoughts on this tomorrow, as I'm already bordering on a dangerously long blog entry as it is.

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