Grace Isn’t Always As It Seems

Grace /ɡrās/ noun 1.) free and unmerited favor

It’s a word known and familiar.  Regardless of one’s personal convictions, its highly likely that nearly every American and countless many abroad hear the words “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound” whenever its familiar melody begins to play.

We are deeply touched, even unsettled, whenever we recognize its been given to us. At times, the role of “grace giver” can feel deeply satisfying. This lovely notion that has spurred on artworks and anthems, namesakes worldwide and notoriety to iconic figures through history: A tiny nun who spent her years giving orphans a home. A friendly cardigan-zipping neighbor elevating the dignity of a fellow human being above society’s dividing lines. A Babylonian king extending his scepter at the unbeckoned approach of an unlikely queen. A carpenter’s son who found greatest worth among the least of these. Hymns and homilies and hashtags have waxed poetic of grace in action while traditions and fairytales have shown glimpses of its worth.

Grace.

We all need it.  

We’d like to think we freely give it.  

And I’ll bet my bottom dollar, in one form or another, we all crave it.  Desperately.

At least, I know I do. 

Sometimes I recognize it when given.  Obvious signs of favor I neither deserve nor deny.  Evidence of mercy’s bestowing opposite twin; where mercy withholds deserved consequences without leverage, grace bestows favor without merit.  I see its evidence and feel its weight, warm as a cloak wrapped round the shivering shoulders of a helpless child.  It floods my heart with gratitude and fills my sight with awe.

But sometimes, there are other times when its evidence hides in plain sight, when the cloak is not warm but absolute as a deathly hallow, hiding the enclosed contents completely from searching eyes. In times like these, my mind runs rampant. I’ll recall those hymns and homilies, declarations of grace amazing and sweet, their comfort felt sharp as a knife and bitter on my tongue.

If I’m honest (and can’t we all just be honest), I quickly arrive at conclusions on my worth and the grace-giver’s intentions and all the reasons why this gift, by nature undeservable, has deliberately been withheld. Shaming conclusions and deliberate rejections. I look for grace and find shadows instead. And I determine my perspective accurate, informed, right.

You too?

It’s unnervingly easy to come to such conclusions. At least, I find it so. I look for grace like a river while sorrows like sea billows roll.

But maybe, just maybe, circumstances aren’t always as they first seem.

What if the shadows are not vacancies but evidence of a stronger light?

What if the pain is not a punishment but a provision to expose and spark rescue from a subversive deadly woe?

What if felt silence is not absence but rather the quiet nearness of a gentle embrace?

What if when we wrestle through the night, as Jacob did in times of old, what if the resulting limp IS the blessing?

What if hope is not in fact hollow but firmly rooted in a foundation eyes cannot currently see?

It’s a lesson lifelong for this girl named for what she must relearn again and again. A gift often wrapped in peculiar packaging.

Sometimes grace is a shelter and sometimes grace is the rain.

Sometimes grace is a placeholder, holding off the good as it keeps place for something greater on its way.

Sometimes grace is a cradle and sometimes grace is a crucifixion.

May my eyes behold this gift when wrapped within various forms and remember at all times, it bestows favor, unmerited and free.

3 Comments

Filed under Faith, God, Patience, Struggles, Suffering, Thoughts

3 responses to “Grace Isn’t Always As It Seems

  1. Joe Link

    I truly do think of you as family, but we have never met. I understand, or at the very least, relate to your post. You and I can probably agree that, without God’s grace, we are helpless and hopeless. Through His Son, God gives us grace, freely and absolutely. But thanks for being real. I sometimes have doubts when I consider my own life, but then He corrects me. 🙂

    I also am totally unaware of your current situation, but have experienced times when grace, amazingly, wasn’t enough because I made it more about my feelings than God’s love. Having done that, the result was seeing myself not as God views me, but as I view myself. The words, “There is now no commendation”…are really significant. I am critical of myself even when God has forgiven.

    I am considerably older than you, so I take license to remind you of what you already know: 1-God’s grace in unconditional and complete. 2-Your worth is immeasurable in God’s eyes, so just accept that you are loved unconditionally by the Most High God. Nothing you have done, or will ever do can change that reality. 3- You are ABSOLUTELY correct in saying that “at ALL times, God’s grace bestows upon YOU favor, unmerited and free!”
    4- Therefore, what others say…or fail to say…makes no difference in your worth, or mine.

    I hope that one day I will meet you in person, at which time I will give you a big hug. You have been forewarned.

    Papa Joe

  2. juliezcoleman

    Beautiful, Patience. I’ve been loving and studying God’s grace most of my life and still keep learning more. Thank you for sharing these “what ifs” with the rest of us. I’m saving this one for my files.

  3. You are so beautiful, Patience. This… “What if felt silence is not absence but rather the quiet nearness of a gentle embrace?” Ugh…tears. Thank you my precious friend.

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