What is grace?

I talk about grace a lot. I talk it about most days. But lately, I have not experienced nor extended the grace about which I have proclaimed. What a quandary. The good news is we are in the season of Lent and I’ve been doing some repenting of my own. As part of my faith journey, I thought I’d remind myself of what grace is. I want to make it personal. I remember years ago a colleague reminded me there are two ways of defining theological terms that is determined by two words. “to me.”

Let me explain. You can ask the question, “What is grace?” Or you can the ask the question, “What is grace to me?” I’ll seek to answer the last question. Both questions are necessary, but the personal form is more suited for today.

Grace to me is the experience of a love you do not deserve. A person who extends grace does not let you off the hook. They know you have done wrong. They know you have said harmful words. They know you are acting outside of your character. They will willingly listen to your anger and frustrations. They will challenge you when your words harm them, but even so they will willingly hear them because they understand the need. There may not be much merit in your rational for feeling the way you do. But the person offering you grace does understand there’s merit in honoring how you feel. That’s grace.

There’s a lot of grace in the Psalms if you read them closely. The Psalmist will often complain to God and about God. Read Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” God does not forsake us. But there are times when we feel an absence and we mistakenly associate that absence with God. God shows grace and honors how we feel. That’s grace.

Grace is most manifest in this person of Jesus. My claim is a bold one. Jesus is the savior of the world. He is both human and divine. He has felt the human pain of betrayal. He has experienced the grief of losing a friend. He too has cried out, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?”

He’s divine too. He can view us in the way that only way that God can view us. Jesus can see past our pettiness, our lack of trust, our misguided anger towards our loved ones. Jesus can peel back the hurt and awaken that good part of us that God created. Jesus can see the beautiful parts that bring out the best in others. Jesus can see into that person that faithfully followed his call and prayed each morning for mercy.

Jesus can see my devotion to him and the way my heart swells because it’s in love with God and longs to be home there, tucked deep in the safety of a merciful, joyful and just God. In those moments where I lack grace, grace spills over in the life of God. I’m thankful that Jesus is human and can understand my all human moments where my cup does not overflow with grace. I am thankful Jesus can see past all those sins and destructive forces. I’m thankful Jesus can awaken and call that faithful part of me that he’s witnessed time and again throughout my life. He calls to me, “You are forgiven.” That’s grace.

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