when grace both hurts and heals

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several months ago i chose a word for my 2013: grace. it’s a word i had heard often through my years on this faith-walk, yet i had only come to understand it just recently. the dictionary defines it as an act or instance of kindness or courtesy, which is all well and good except that grace every once in a while wasn’t enough for me. i didn’t want neatly packaged grace, the kind that looks pretty on the outside but doesn’t really do anything. i didn’t want grace on the surface, grace when i felt like it; i wanted deeper, more, grace as a lifestyle, grace whether i wanted to give it or not. once i understood how grace had changed me, i felt a fire in my bones to share it with others. i wanted to live a life of love, of kindness, of forgiveness, of grace.

pretty soon, i realized that the thing about grace is that it’s messy. it requires me to give when i don’t feel i have anything left. it requires me to love with all my heart, throwing caution to the wind. it requires me to forgive even when i am hurt, to persevere when i feel like giving up.

i also realized that the hardest things in life are most often those most worthy. yes, living out my grace-word in an ungracious world would be difficult. but i knew it’s what i was called to. and so i jumped into the deep end, eyes closed, heart trusting.

people came into my life who were hard to love. some had hurt me, betrayed me, abandoned me; some would take without giving, so much so that i wondered if i had anything left in me. yet i knew: these people, they desperately needed love and prayer and encouragement like a beggar needs bread, like a parched soul needs living water.

and so i loved. i prayed. i spoke truth over their hearts and their lives.

 and i ended up with a broken heart, with bruised pride and tears in my eyes and empty hands.

part of me wants to be angry. part of me wants to blame them, blame God. part of me wants to rage at the unfairness of it, the injustice i feel when i think about all the time and energy and emotion i’ve invested–and for what? part of me wants to feel foolish for caring too much. part of me wants to feel like i’ve failed because i can’t see the fruit of all the seeds i have sown. part of me wants to take it all back, wishes i had never gotten involved.

but then there’s the part of me that knows better. there’s the part of me that knows this is what i signed up for. grace + mercy can be a lonely place; just ask Jesus. how could he have felt when those who said they loved him turned around and betrayed him? how could he have felt when he was delivered into the hands of his accusers by the very man he had called friend and follower? how could he have felt when his nearest and dearest could not even stay awake and support him as he wept in the garden, his soul burdened and anguished? how could he have felt as he hung from the cross and cried out, “Father, forgive them?”

it probably felt a little bit like this.

and yet he still loved. he still sacrificed. he still gave grace.

and because of him,
so will i.

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