I had a beautiful moment in the coffee shop today. It was crowded, as it often is, and I was just sitting at my table drinking coffee and thinking about marketing problems. ‘Cause the Spirit exists even in the mundane.
It’s important (to me at least) to note that I wasn’t eavesdropping. It wasn’t my intent to listen, particularly to such a necessarily private, anonymous one might even say, conversation as the one that was going on next to me. But, well, they were next to me. And that was pretty close.
So I couldn’t help but hear.
Two people, one who obviously had experience, one who was just beginning a long, and arduous journey; who just recently realized it was a road she had to walk, and even more recently realized it wasn’t one she had to walk alone. That she probably could not walk alone, successfully.
She sounded, well, daunted. They danced around the question for a bit, her almost asking something she obviously considered to be important, him, wisely, giving her the space to come to whatever the question was on her own.
Finally she asked it. “People keep telling me about grace. What is grace?”
I’m not going to say I wasn’t tempted to try to answer. But of course, this was their conversation, and they were obviously in the beginning of an important relationship, and it wasn’t for me to break their anonymity or insert myself unasked into this bond they were creating, a bond she’ll need, I imagine, desperately over the coming months.
Also, that would have deprived me of hearing him tell her that grace is God’s unmerited love, poured into us even when, or especially when, we don’t believe we deserve it, believe we can receive it, or believe it even exists.
As a practicing theologian, sometimes I get so caught up in the different ways I can try to explain the movement of God in the world, how God interacts with and through us, what God’s desires are for us, and (my all-time favorite) what Jesus accomplished on the cross and how,1 that I forget that most people simply need to know that they are loved, that they have always been loved, that they will always be loved, and that God’s love isn’t somehow lessened in the midst of our human screw-ups and failings.
The truth of God’s unfailing love is never far from my mind.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.2
But I have to admit that sometimes I’m embarrassed to admit how far that simple truth of unchanging grace is from the way I proclaim the Gospel. As if it’s somehow more important to decide whether Jesus died for us as a moral example or as a substitutionary atonement than it is to simply remember that Jesus came for us out of love.
A cold, rainy morning here in Bennington. I’ve been away for part of each of the past three weeks, I’m going to be away again this week, and I am supposed to be away again next week. I am tired, I have a lot of work to do in an uphill battle to start a church,3 and I miss my family.
But this was a beautiful morning. Because in being reminded of God’s weirdly sufficient grace for her, for this person just starting a road to a recovery that really does demonstrate God’s penchant for resurrection, I was reminded of God’s weirdly sufficient grace for me.
And you, too.
Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||‘cause atonement theory is my fav!|
|2.||↑||Romans 8:38-39, NRSV|
|3.||↑||don’t get me wrong; this is fun, and I am and will continue to enjoy it, and I think it’ll be a success… but it is hard work!|