There comes a time, when you’re deeply aware of just how much grace God has poured into your life, that you simply cannot hold it inside you anymore. It occurs to you that to hoard grace is an oxymoron, and that if you do so, that makes you, well, a moron.
You must release it, let it out. Share it. Jesus said, if you’ve forgiven much, you’ll love much (see Luke 7). He also said, “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” (Luke 8:16)
Growing up, I was told shining your light was a metaphor for witnessing, which in the evangelical tradition I found myself a part of, meant giving a verbal witness: sharing the plan of salvation with people. And dragging them, somehow, across “the line of faith.” And to do that, I should “let my little light shine.” And people actually kept track of how many souls they had “won to Christ.” Like it was a contest, or something.
Yeah. I wonder, doesn’t a life, radically changed by grace, shine brighter than an argument about the existence of God? Isn’t radical forgiveness, or generosity, a more convincing apologetic than intellectual or philosophical gymnastics?
Grace (if you let it) shifts your perspective. You aren’t in denial about your difficult marriage or your financial, um, situation. But you choose joy in spite of those things, because you focus on the goodness of God. His presence, his forgiveness, the inexplicable joy that fills you not because things are going well, but in spite of the fact that actually, they’re not going that well. You realize you’ve been forgiven much, and as a result, you can love liberally. And here’s the crazy thing: when you give love and grace to others, you feel more joyful.
In other words, grace, and the joy it brings, makes no sense. Which is precisely why it’s such a gift. You can try to manufacture a positive attitude without experiencing grace. But it’s going to be just that—manufactured. Or you can receive the grace of God, and then choose to let what is already inside simply shine out on everyone around you.
In the last month, I’ve heard a few times the reminder that justice is getting what you deserve, mercy is not getting what you deserve, but grace is getting what you don’t deserve. In other words, even though we don’t deserve God’s love and his welcome into the family, he offers that very thing. If we fully grasp the truth of grace, it would change how we live, and especially, how we love.
These are difficult times. The stock market is a mess, and that’s having repercussions around the world and in our daily lives. Natural disasters seem to be more common. The cost of living continues to rise, along with unemployment.
So if there was ever a time that we needed a grace perspective, it would be now. If there were ever times that try our souls, if there were ever times that would stretch us to have joy in spite of our circumstances, that would these times, these circumstances.
How can we experience grace when our planet seems to have fallen from it? God’s grace is not dependent on our circumstances. In fact, the bigger the mess, the more we need (and receive) his grace.
Three reminders that will help you to find grace in the midst of the mess:
1. Ask, and it shall be given. So many Christians I meet seem to believe they are saved by grace, but they don’t live by grace. The grace they know is very small and scrappy, like a get out of jail free card. While God’s grace saves us once and for all, it is still something we grow in each day. Ask for God’s grace to fill you, each day. Let it flow through you to your friends, and to your enemies. Let it release you from both guilt and grudges. You cannot do this on your own—ask each day for enough grace to get through, and enough grace to share with others.
2. You have enough. When we focus on ourselves, and our problems, we often lose perspective. If you have a roof over your head and food on the table, you have a lot more than many others. I try to regularly rub shoulders with folks who have it much worse than me—the women in the homeless shelter, the friend whose husband has been out of work for six months, the single mom who’s working and going to school. That single mom is someone I just met. She told me that her budget is very tight, but she realized that if she cut out cable television, she’d have an extra $30 per month. Which she did. Not so she could go get a manicure. But so she could sponsor a child in a third-world country. I was amazed. Here is this young mom of two preschoolers, trying to figure out a way to sponsor a child. Because God’s grace is sufficient in her life. If she can do this, you can too. Because I think this young mom will be experiencing grace in amazing ways, because of how she has chosen to live her priorities.
3. Gratitude empowers. At the risk of sounding like Oprah, having a positive attitude and choosing to be grateful actually makes you feel more joyful. And conveying that gratitude to others is a way of letting your light shine. Even among the rocks, look for the hidden diamonds. What is good in your life? Are your children healthy? Do you have a job? Do you have a few good friends? Are you healthy enough to take a walk around the block? These are all blessings. Say thank you, and share your joy with those around you.
May you experience extravagant grace, and shine that grace on all you meet. God knows, we all need it.