My aunt, she used to say something that as a child I never quite understood. "There, but for the grace of God, go I." And she would whisper a prayer of thanksgiving.
Yes, she saw it. She saw herself in every sinner. She understood the only thing standing between her and the alcoholic, the woman selling herself on the corner for another hit, the person living steeped in sin is the grace of God in her life. Everything good in her - and in me - is because of His grace.
Sometimes I question that. How is that His grace? How do you credit His grace with being who you are and where you are without wondering where His grace is for the person living on the street, for the alcoholic, for the one who sells herself on the corner, for the one beaten and abused, for the abuser, for the woman who has been violated, for the child who has been rejected? My heart aches, because really, apart from Christ I am so many of those things. I know it...and I am humbled because this grace that is too big and too wonderful has nothing to do with me...I did nothing to earn it (wouldn't that negate that it was grace at all?) and I can't do anything to make myself worthy of such grace, and yet, here is the truth: He has poured this all-consuming grace out on me. But, what about those others?? What about all those ones of whom my aunt used to whisper "but for the grace of God"? If grace has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Him, then what about THEM? Where is His grace and why are they suffering, and why can't their testimony be "there but for the grace of God, go I"?
So, when you know such a thing about Grace and yourself, what do you do with it? How do you open your eyes wide to this all-consuming grace and not weep for the lost? How do you not pour out grace on a hurting world? Really, here is the question, among all the "amen's" at the sermon, how do you LIVE this all powerful, all consuming grace? How do you take a beaten and wounded heart and pour out His grace on it? How? I know it is not by following the list of things my dear sister in the Lord gave me when I first came to Christ...the "do these things, don't do these" and you will be a good Christian list. (By the way, I failed...I really liked Petra Praise...and such sin, she assured me, would lead to hell's fire, I watched a movie and I did go to a dance...I still can't follow that list of do's and don'ts)
Because really, my son caught it (he leaned over to me, wide-eyed "Really? That is Mr.----? Ha!" - I have to confess, he talked about it all the way home), the one perhaps shouting the loudest amens during the sermon on grace....well...he is the same one who brings a list of his perception of my son's faults regularly to our attention with a smirk - in fact, had just done it the night before. So obviously, KNOWING what grace is and LIVING grace are two different things...and I don't want to just know, I don't want to just "Amen" during a sermon...I want to live grace...I want His grace to be all that there is...I want my life to be the Amen at the end of the message. But, then again, I recognize, apart from His grace I am incapable of living His grace.
And for that woman selling herself on the corner for another hit, and the child living in fear of an abusive father, and for that person steeped in sin, for the sister who has stumbled? Well, maybe...just maybe, God has called me to be His grace to them...His gentle voice whispering freedom to the hurting, healing to the broken, hope to the hopeless, forgiveness for the sinner. Maybe, just maybe...I am called to live His grace out to them...take them the message of the resurrected Christ, Hope and freedom, let His light shine through me and in me. Could I, maybe, live this grace outloud so that they who have no hope might see the Light of His love shining through me? Only by His grace and the power of His Spirit am I able to live such grace!