I keep a baseball on my desk to remind me the need for abounding grace.
You see, several months ago we had some neighborhood kids playing in our church parking lot and a window was broken. The kids fled, leaving the window broken, and their baseball in the shattered fragments of glass. I spent the next several hours boarding up a window, calling our insurance company, calling window companies, and praying that no one would vandalize the obviously exposed window. To make matters worse, it happened in early spring when Denver is prone to freak snowstorms, so I did all of this in near blizzard conditions.
And the responses, understandably, were varied. There was a lot of discussion about the ‘right’ response.
And the whole time, I kept reminding people, “How we respond to this in front of the community will say more about the heart and status of our church than anything we do on Sunday morning. We must respond with grace.”
I remember sitting with someone a few weeks ago that was facing health and relational issues. He carries around a deep sense of shame and guilt from not being closer to God. And though he tries, and wants to follow God, he also admits that it’s not easy. When life gets hard he (in his own words) ‘backslides’.
And as I listened to his story, he kept repeating one question: When I do that, does God get angry with me? Do I face these hard times because I don’t follow him closer, better, with less sin?
Grace really is a hard thing to understand. It’s even harder to accept. We’ve come to expect certain actions from people when we confess that we’ve done something wrong. So on the one hand, it’s completely logical to assume God responds the same way.
But, as I told this young man, and as I’ve had to remind myself often (almost daily): God responds so amazingly different than we’ve come to expect. Where I may have a tendency to limit, define, qualify, or restrict grace; God gives it lavishly, abundantly, unendingly, and without restrictions, hesitations, or regrets.
One of the things that I want to be known for is a person of grace. It’s hard, and truth be told, I probably fail more than I succeed. But the more I struggle, the more I pastor, and the more I sit with people who struggle, the more I see it as the one thing that changes everything. People don’t have to go very far from their bed in the morning to be told that they are no good, worthless, broken, vile pieces of trash. But in Christ I find quite the opposite: a story so compelling about the beauty, love, acceptance, and grace that Christ gives us that I can’t help but tell that story. I can’t help but stare at a baseball and be reminded of all my own shortcomings and failures.
And then be reminded of how much grace God has given me.