Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Grace

Okay, fellow on-line book clubbers. I want to write a few blogs just pulling some good one-liners from the book, The Shack. This may not interest you, and if it doesn't, you can of course surf on to other places. If it does interest you, I invite you to also share in the comments section.

One of the first phrases or one-liners I liked in The Shack is found on page 11, and the context starts on page 10. The author is speaking of Mack and his wife and how she's stuck with him even through some fierce hurts in the early years. Then he continues, "I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships so will our healing, and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside."

It's the second clause in that sentence that grabs me, "…and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside." So true. So true.

Have you ever found yourself in the position of trying to explain "grace" to someone? I mean what grace means to you and how you see it life-ing out in yourself and in others? I do not mean the old standbys which will suffice for a Sunday School lesson or even for a sermon. The acrostic God's Riches At Christ's Expense (taking the first letter of each word) is often quoted. Another definition, God's unmerited favor, is also a good one. These have great meaning, but to those of us who have grown up in church, these phrases almost become automatic and we say them easily. I did for years. And I think perhaps without realizing to any degree what I was saying.

Then I began to understand what grace really was for me, but it came in the back door. 

I think my first step in that direction was learning the meaning of the word shame. I read a book, Parenting Without Shame, and it socked me between the eyes. It nailed me. I realized I had shamed my kids to obedience. I could almost shame anyone into responding or acting like I wanted them to act. I was a shame tyrant. But I didn't know that. I was raised that way and I just continued the shaming style. It seemed the natural way. Realizing how not loving that was, I began the long road to change. At first it was a sense of not even knowing how to act. I was shocked at how much of my relational style was shaming.

The second step for me was understanding what respecting the other person really meant. I can remember when I really began to get a glimpse of this. Paul and I and our two daughters were riding some place together and the girls started talking about how to get their kids to respect them. We ended our discussion realizing that you don't teach respect, you respect others and in doing that they learn respect. When they're respected, they will respect others, or at least will have a fighting chance to learn and do. That discussion was the start of another long road of relational style changing. Wow! What revelations!

Now what does this have to do with grace? Everything. At least for me. I began to realize how God loves me without shame and without dis-grace. Totally accepting and without shame. May I repeat that, without shame. Unbelievable! And then on the heels of that, learning respect. God respects my person. I learn to respect myself and I then give respect to others. In this process I also learned that I cannot give to someone else what I do not have. I must love myself without shame, and respect my person before I can give love to others or respect others. I learned this by trying to stop my bad relational styles and then realizing that's the way God loves me. It has been an incredible journey!

That's grace! At least to me! Love without shame and respect for the person no matter who the person is or what that person does. Grace, the gift! And I can give that when I've received it from God to me and for me and I realize, fully realize deep within my inner person, that God has that for me, then I have it for myself. Then, I'm a giver of that gift to others. What release! What freedom! But a hard road to travel and many the potholes along the way.

A few years ago we were with another couple that we had known years ago when they were seminary students. Her name was Mary like mine, and his name was Paul like Paul's, and their last name started with a B and we had the same wedding anniversary. We had a lot in common. Mary said that day, "How do you explain grace? It's unexplainable! You just recognize in another person that they know. And you know. You can't teach it. You can't write it down. You live it and you experience it." I looked at her and thought, yes, yes, yes. So true. That's one of those "freeze-frame" moments that I will never forget.

In these last few years since my style of life and belief system have changed so drastically, I've had people ask me: Are you still a Christian? Do you still believe the Bible? Are you one of those wishy-washy people with no convictions? Do you just speak of love and don't hold people accountable? I always say, yes, yes, no, maybe. The "maybe" is because it depends on who is accountable to me? Not too many I dare say. 

That is why the phrase, "and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside" rings so true with me. Grace-based living is the opposite of shame-based living and performance-based living. Totally opposite. Most religious people I know are married to performance, perhaps to prove something. Most preaching I hear is somewhat shame-based and usually performance oriented. Most of my friends who knew me then and who know me now perhaps think, she's lost it. Yeah! Yes, I've lost it. I've lost performance-based living and religion. 

The truth of grace has been a truth that has set me free, and yet it's difficult to explain or outline or teach. But it's a wonderful way to live and it's wonderful to experience. I've still a long way to go to plumb the depths, but the journey is quite an adventure.
MB    


7 comments:

Debbie Kaufman said...

What a great post. I'm learning so much.

The Lenoxes said...

This post was exactly what I needed! Why does grace feel wrong sometimes? Like I'm not holding "the standard" high enough.

This is especially hard for me with my kids. I have one especially who has felt that she will never measure up to what I want her to be! How sad is that?! My motive and intention (I think) has always been that I want her to reach her potential. She hates that word...potential. It makes her feel like I love who she could be and not who she is now. She has taught me a lot in her almost 21 years. She has challenged almost all of my beliefs and paradigms. I am grateful for her!

Grace...no shame...respect. For me, easy to say; hard to live out. I haven't done extremely well, but I am learning. And God keeps giving me opportunities to practice. I've got a BIG opportunity to try and live these principles out right now. My prayer is that I will offer unconditional love and grace.

The Shack has helped me get a picture of what that might look like in relationship. I'm so grateful for this book. It is putting Biblical principles in picture form. I need that.

Thanks, mom, for this post. It came at a time that I desperately needed it!

ML

greg.w.h said...

I hope I'm not jumping ahead!

This one is probably trite, and I'm not sure it even got expressed this way in the book.

As I was reading the middle of the book, I felt a conscious shift in interpretation of this verse:

"You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free."

I've always read that in terms of knowledge and understanding. I've even HEARD people say that it's a reference to Jesus being "the way, the truth, and the life."

But I wasn't connecting the dots. Knowing truth is a relationship with the creator. Truth remains singular and just as trustworthy, of course, but it then is much, much more. Talking to Truth and having Truth respond to you is a very different thing than the kind of effort that a historian or linguist goes through to understand history or translate a passage. Yet, essentially, human endeavors to understand truth still lead to the same result.

I particularly enjoyed the name Elousia. Not only does the word mean tenderness, but then you have the juxtaposition of the Hebrew El and the Greek ousia which is the feminine noun form of the verb to be. Typically (wikipedia says) it gets translated into Latin as substance or essence. The words "God" and "essence" snapped into place as I read the explanation in the text.

Greg Harvey

Rebel4Reality said...

Debbie, Thanks. When someone says that they're learning, it always encourages me. I've always wanted to be learning. The day I stop learning is the day I'm afraid I will develop all kinds of negative attitudes like pride, inflexible, etc. May your tribe increase.

Mel, Thanks for posting. I do believe I've learned more about life from my adult children than from any other source. Each has done a much better job of parenting than I did and in spite of theirs. Yeah!

From one a generation down the road, Mel, may I say: some things are hard, very hard, as you're going through them. In hindsight sometimes you realize it was worth it for all you learned, but you know you wouldn't want to face it again.

I think the author of The Shack shows how facing some very hard situations and processing them into your life can be dealt with. At least he doesn't quote all the religious cliches, which often are harsh to hear or read in times of suffering. And they're not real, just words. Give me honesty and reality any day. Good discussion.

Greg, I loved your way of connecting the dots. YES! It's almost a complete paradigm shift. Seeing Truth as a personal relationship instead of objective facts. And thanks for sharing about the name Elouisa. Very good information. Added a little seasoning.

That's what I love about community. I think we all have something to give to each other, and when others share, I'm enriched. Somehow I always imagined that's what the gathering of believers was to be. It's not quite that, but maybe one day. Thanks again for sharing your insights.
MB

Chuck Andrews said...

Mary

I remember when we first started Grace Fellowship. After a few months of preaching grace someone came to me and said "I understand about grace but what about responsibility? When are you going to start preaching responsibility?"

First, I realized the person did not understand grace, regardless of how many ways I tried to explain it. You're right, it can't be taught. I think the Spirit determines openness and enlightens the heart and mind to grace.

Secondly, I realized that I had just begun to swim in the ocean of grace while some only want to wade around in the kiddy pool.

Keep the journey going,

Chuck

Rebel4Reality said...

I have a friend in Ohio, Mary, who reads this blog and then comments via e-mail. She wrote a great comment about this blog and I have her permission to post that comment here.

Mary said: I read in one of Max Lucado's books, I think, that God is a God of mercy and generosity who keeps finding ways to shatter the relentless laws of ungrace. I like that. I have it on my bulletin board by my desk.

Hopefully Mary will learn how to post comments on a blog so she can participate and you can read her good insights.
MB

Jeff said...

Mary, I have just picked up The Shack to read it. For the longest I refused to read it, but thanks to Wade's sermon (where he discusses Paul Young's life) I purchased a copy to read which I intend to read with an open heart---or at least try with the Spirit's help.