Saturday and Sunday held minor challenges for me, opportunities to worship and to rest, moments of illumination and insight as I read Philip Yancey's Book, "What's So Amazing About Grace?" This is a book I had read years ago, but apparently I wasn't affected by it then. I am now. I am touched by it, unsettled by it, and stirred up.
The challenges I had this weekend were relational oriented. (Aren't they always?!) One college bound son who, in my mind, isn't acting very college bound (ie. responsible, organized, focused) had me fighting the battle to "release" and trust God. My daughter also has needs and it can't always be that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease". Sometimes the quiet wheel needs a bit of attention too. Saturday was a lot of running around, errands, and preparations. It ended, though, with a birthday party for my niece, where twelve of us, ages 13-82 , gathered together- and we really did celebrate.
Sunday afternoon we stopped at the Grocery Store right after church to grab the ingredients for sandwiches and soup, so that I wouldn't have to venture out of the house again that day. I was feeling a bit run down and ready to hibernate a bit.
As I was in line checking out, putting the cans of soup on the conveyor belt, I heard the words to that beautiful melody "Let it Be" by the Beatles. Some say the song was not written about Mother Mary but rather about Paul McCartney's mother, Mary, who would always settle family fights by saying, "Let it be. Just let it be." Mothers everywhere are settling scuffles and outcries with those healing words. Let it be. Let it go....Surrender.
After lunch, I flopped in bed with my two new books, one from the library and one from the Salvation Army (where the world has opened up to me at 50c a hardcover. Incredible deal.) Harry was lying on the bed with me, very needy and fretful. He was clipped and shorn like a sheep at the Groomers on Saturday. (If he's not clipped frequently enough, he gets painfully matted).
After having Mono last year, it doesn't take much now for me to rest on my bed in an attitude of gratitude. A book, a sleeping dog next to me, maybe a pot of hot tea on a tray, and I am one blessed woman. Especially if my son and my husband are downstairs working on a computer project, and my daughter wants to do a craft in her room. Then everyone is settled, in their place of choice, doing their activity of choice. It's as it should be. It's peaceful. It's restorative. But it is rare that it happens that way.
I read and I wrestle with this idea of grace. The illustrations Yancey shares moves me to tears. Though this book was published in 1997, the issue of grace has come up again, ten years later. Grace for the Christian, Grace for this troubled world, Grace for our homes. People want to know if this word, Grace, is as powerful as it is purported to be. Could Grace possibly frees us from the panic we often feel? Could Grace deal with the broken down families and the increasingly complex relationships everyone is dealing with? How free would you really be if you walked continually in Grace- Grace for yourself and Grace for others?
Oh, the Land of the Free. "In this land you can question anything," I wrote the other day. Without Grace, you strive to be packaged nicely before you go and talk to God, as if He will not see through your thin veneer of pretense and pride. Who could come clean enough to come forward and talk to God with absolute purity of thought and heart? The longer you pour it all out with Him, the more you keep seeing the shallowness of your thoughts or the selfishness of your ways.
But Grace isn't there for us to become shocked at how bad we can look. Grace is there to help us absorb the enormity of our weak state and yet assure us that we can indeed talk with the Creator of the Universe. Grace holds our hand and leads us to the throne room, all the while declaring, "This one is with me, Father. Please hear them out." And He does. He can listen to every rant and rave, every whimper and every sob, every statement of anger and bitterness.
And to all that, God will give an answer of peace. Peace that heals- because "by His stripes we are healed." Forgiven. Peace that gives perspective- because God will direct you into success as well as keep you through times of failure. Keep you, literally. Will not toss you out because you bombed on a task, blew it big, or wimped out where you once declared your godly purpose to prevail. He already knows the state we need to live in- it's a state of grace because of our human state of weakness.
"The same God who created the heavens and the earth has the power to bridge the great chasm that separates Him from His creatures. He will reconcile, He will forgive, no matter what obstacles His prodigal children put in the way...God will go to any preposterous length to get His family back," Yancey says.
I had just dozed off in the middle of reading that when I heard my bedroom door open. My daughter came in quietly. I was just about to tell her, "Oh, honey, I can't talk right now. I just need to sleep" but before I could say that, she holds up a book in her hand, indicating that she just wants to cuddle in bed and read next to me. She'll read and I can read. Or I can sleep if I need to. That her desire to be near me could coincide with my need to rest filled me with such peace. I could be "weak" right now- tired and worn out, and it wouldn't take away from what she wanted. She hopped in bed next to me.
God somehow desires our company, a relationship with us despite the fact that we are weak, worn out, with not much to give Him. Yet He extends His hand and says "Come closer." When God reaches out to surprise you with a Welcome, instead of an Exile to the Wilderness, you will be touched by Grace. Surprised by it. Astonished that it could work. We can be weak, a mess, mired in sin and He could want to know us, forgive us, and heal us. Grace could overwhelm us.
Or in the case of apostle Paul,"knocked flat on the ground on the way to Damascus, he never recovered from the impact of grace...."
Then let me never recover, as well.