Thursday, May 08, 2008

Amazing Grace, Pt. 2

In going through this adventure with extending grace, I’ve learned a few things that I thought maybe you’d want me to share.

Over the weekend, it occurred to me that I don’t think I’d be very good at giving grace if we experienced the same (or similar) marital hiccup as we did two weeks ago. (Especially if it happened anytime in the near future.) I think that it would become infinitely more difficult with each occurrence. It wouldn’t feel wise to just keep doing something so unnatural that didn’t appear to be working. So for how long is it supposed to go on? Is it possible to show grace while running for the hills? Just because it would feel wrong, does that mean that it would actually be wrong for me to continue to show grace if the wrongful act kept happening?

Now I know where this thought comes from. Unfortunately, that particular hiccup leveled the house of trust we had built around us. My fear of a repeat act is brought on by my inability to trust. (Thankfully, there’s nothing he or I or anyone else could do to destroy the foundation of our little house of trust – nor its cornerstone – if you get what I mean.) I actually look forward to seeing it rebuilt into something more like what God has intended for us. But until then, I’m left with this unstable, vulnerable feeling, and I’m not sure that I can do anything about that. Of course, I trust God. And right now, that seems to be all I really need.

Another thing I’m noticing is that grace doesn’t eliminate or wash away the earthly consequences of our actions. God didn’t heal the effects that my past smoking, heavy drinking and drug use had on my body. He didn’t erase the scars on my body so that I won’t have to explain to my kids someday that Mommy made those scars. While on earth, there will always be consequences to our sins. Once in heaven, if we are believers, God won’t even see us. He’ll see His Son, and we will be given salvation. Jesus sees us though. At least, that’s how I understand it. He experienced all my sins. He knows the eternal consequences of my sins intimately. They killed him.

I keep hearing that when we forgive, we are to do it for ourselves, and not for the person who harmed us. I’ve seen where people are teaching that when we withhold forgiveness, we are actually poisoning ourselves while waiting for the other person to die. This is not grace. This is not how I understand Christian forgiveness. I do believe that not forgiving is very unhealthy, sure. But I don’t think we should be primarily concerned with ourselves when we forgive. I don’t think that God forgave us because He wanted a healed heart. I don’t think He ever got into the victim mentality and out of desperation cried out, “Fine! I’m not going to let you hurt me anymore. I will no longer hold your offenses against you. You are forgiven.” He doesn’t offer us forgiveness so He can feel better. He offers it to us so we can become better.

I also wanted to clear up something about my last post. I don’t know the answer here, but I thought it needed to be addressed. I’m not certain that grace is always the best recourse. How does a physically abused wife show grace to an un-repentant husband? How does a father show grace when his children constantly bear the marks of a mother’s frequent and uncontrolled rage? How could a Holocaust survivor extend grace to the members of the SS Army? Should these people ever be offered grace by us humans?

I’ve heard of parents who have forgiven their own child’s murderer. I’ve read where a severely wounded survivor on a train that was blown up by a suicide bomber has found the power to forgive. I’ve even heard that Jesus told His Father to forgive me, you, and the people who had Him killed because we just don’t know what we are doing.

Grace can’t take away a wrongful act. It can not take away the consequences of the act. And offering grace doesn’t condone the act. All that grace does is let the person who receives it know that they still have worth to you. Honestly, if a person has been deemed worthy enough by God that He’d send His only Son to die for him/her, I would like to think that I could show a little grace too.

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