We often do not discover our problem with something until it is right in front of us. For example, I had no problem with asparagus until my mother encouraged me to try it and offered that it was “good.” Her words did nothing for the smell, appearance and texture of the food. I believed that she liked asparagus, but I insisted that I did not.
The same seems to be true of grace. I have been the one to encourage grace and promote its goodness. But, unlike my mother, I have not been tasting what I myself am putting on other plates. Be careful of the chef who does not eat his or her own cooking. In my first post I shared how I learned to allow my slate to be wiped clean rather than remaining hung up on my imperfection. In my second post I shared that I had to humble myself and acknowledge my own insufficiency. This third part may have been the hardest, but also the best.
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – Ephesians 1:4,5
While I was uncomfortably waiting inside the bank, I thought I should seek out another option. Maybe the bank would not be able to help me with the impending shortfall I was facing. I took my phone and sent out a text for help. An offer came back, but it would not be available until Monday – the day that I needed it. Before I could finish the conversation, I was called into the bank office. A proverbial dash, like the one after Ephesians 1:5, was hanging over my cry for help.
As I walked out of the bank office assured that my payment could still process, I glanced at my phone. I had one text message with one word: “Done.” In other words, not only would I have the amount that I needed, I would have it in time. What a relief.
A few days after that, I received this text from that person: “I’m very glad you asked me for money.”
That seemed to be an odd statement to make. So I asked, “Because?”
I received this response: “I know a lot of people that need it won’t ask, you did a lot for me and I’m glad I’m able to help in some way.”
Isn’t that so true of grace? How many people need it but won’t ask? How many people know they need it and won’t ask? And how many people need it again and again but allow their pride or sense of self-sufficiency to prevent them from making that request? Put me in that final category.
Verse 5 of Ephesians 1 ends with a dash, a “wait-for-it” type of marking. Here is what comes after that:
to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. – Ephesians 1:6
There’s that word again: grace. Freely given. Freely given in the One he loves. I have tried to repay my debt, not only with my friend but also with God. I want to “make it right” or “even out” what has been done. So not only do I get hung up on mistakes and have difficulty admitting my failures, but I also do not receive well. As soon as I was able to repay what had been given to me by my friend, I made my intentions clear. The loan was appreciated and I was ready to settle up. The response I received was not what I had expected (nor hoped) to hear:
“You know I won’t take it.”
What? I cannot repay? But how am I supposed to settle the score? Don’t we do that with grace? How often have you treated grace like a loan to “get you by” in a tough spot instead of receiving it for the gift that it is?
Ah, but grace is not about settling the score, at least not on our end. Grace is freely given in order to settle the score from God’s perspective. This morning I asked my sons about the word “reconcile” after we heard it in a song. “Reconcile” is one of those words tossed around in Christian-ese, but we often miss the application it has to the accounting world. (Those of us who have reconciled bank statements should understand.) In that sense the word points toward accuracy and an accounting for of all transactions. That’s grace.
We’re imperfect. We’re woefully short. We receive grace to balance out the account. But it’s not a loan, so we cannot repay. If the account has already been settled and the cost paid, how would we make things even again? How do you repay adoption into a relationship so undeserved? How do you repay love? (Many of you will try on Valentine’s Day.) You cannot.
We are not used to gifts without conditions, so we may struggle to only receive. It’s not that we cannot respond at all, for grace does compel us to action. But the very simple point is that we cannot repay grace. We can, however, respond in love.
I like asparagus now; my mother was right. It makes me wish I had tried it sooner. And people were right about grace as well. In fact, I was right about grace. I knew it was good. The difference is that I now have a taste for grace, and I hope you do as well. Don’t wait any longer to try it.