When It's Hard To Be Grace-Filled
As we enter into an Advent season like no other that we've ever experienced, I'm finding myself reflecting more and more on grace and how much I need it. And this morning I got to thinking more deeply about it.
You see, here in Austin, the schools have all been shuttered for a week in an attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID after the Thanksgiving holiday.
So once again, we're having to navigate the changes with our kids, breaking their routines, negotiating new norms, and reminding them (and ourselves) once more that nothing is certain in this new world that is emerging.
What I have discovered in all of this is that one of the many side-effects of the constant strain and stress of uncertainty is that I am finding it harder to summon grace-filled feelings toward people with whom I'm disagreeing.
Based on the conversations I've been having lately with friends, church members, and colleagues, I think that I'm not alone in this discovery.
Yesterday, I launched into a rant in front of my sixteen-year-old son---a rant that contained whithering remarks about the National Football League, the Federal Government, school closures, social injustice, Christmas lights, among other things.
My son, who is occasionally wise beyond his years, let me rant with a bemused smile on his face. When I was finished, he asked me "Got it all out?" I grinned ruefully at him, and said, "I think so."
That conversation reminded me of something important. No matter how graceless I might be feeling toward others at times, I need to realize first and foremost that I am in need of grace even more.
It's been so easy lately for my prayer life to turn into a series of complaints, rants at God for all of the ways that things are messed up... for all the ways that I am messed up, too.
But in the end, I have also come to know that God takes all of my complaints, receives all of my fear, sadness, anger, frustration, and dread, and softly whispers back, "Is that everything? Got it all out? Good."
God speaks to us in a hundred different ways that we seldom recognize because we're often too busy listening to the sound of our own voice. But if we are willing to listen, we can hear God's soft answers to our fear-filled prayers coming from the most unexpected places... and people.
Fr. Richard Rohr once wrote:
This is the way that God seduces us all into the economy of grace—by loving us in spite of ourselves in the very places we cannot or will not or dare not love ourselves.
During this Advent season, we should be alert to the moments when God is unexpectedly offering grace-filled responses to our frustrated cries for help, our anger-fueled rants, our sorrow, and sadness.
We should be paying attention because, in those moments of softly-spoken grace, we are reminded of just how freely it is given by the One who risked everything to become one of us...
And that the very least we could do in gratitude is extend that grace to the world as it has been extended to us.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.