We all know that guy…you know the one: The one that shoots from the hip with his hateful comments about how other people aren’t measuring up. The one that you can not help but feel judged around if you ever reveal what is really going on in your life. The one that makes you cringe to be around him but you keep seeing him at church so you HAVE to be nice to him and pretend he doesn’t make your stomach turn. The one whose wife you pity so deeply and wonder how she ended up with him because she is just so dang nice. The one that exhausts you to be around because doing so siphons every single ounce of energy from you. Or maybe…that guy is that girl. Maybe it’s a relative of yours. Maybe it’s you. I know it has been me before…for a long time in fact, it WAS me…sometimes, it still is.
There is a line somewhere…it’s hard to find sometimes…but it’s there. We are meant to embrace truth whole-heartedly…which I believe “that guy” wants to do…but we are also meant to extend love and grace whole-heartedly. Sometimes, it seems like an impossible task…I guess if we are trying to do it on sheer will-power, it is impossible. But that is the problem…WE weren’t meant to be what produces growth-filled change in people…Jesus is. So, how do we keep ending up in the way?
I think part of the problem is that we distance ourselves from our sins. See, this is another balancing act: I don’t want to live with guilt and shame when I have been forgiven of my sins…but I also don’t want to distance myself so far from them that I forget the amazingly restorative grace that has been extended to me. That grace, for me, makes life worth living and makes people worth loving because when I have been unlovable, I was still loved by Jesus and by people who extended unfathomable grace to me. I have received unexplainable forgiveness for unpardonable errors. To balance truth with grace and love, it is important for me to remember the gifts that I have received.
I think another part of the problem is that we only identify with the struggles that we personally are tempted with…because we WANT our sins to be pardon-able. We are less invested in making sure that others, who experience different temptations than we do, get to experience grace. Why is that? Why do we want to deprive someone else of the very life-giving thing that has saved us from isolation and self-loathing? When we nurse pet sins (those sins/temptations that we like to refer to in other people) that we look down on…it does not make us stand out above the other person in a good way, it separates us from God because Jesus is close to people when they are hurting and broken…he pursues the broken and redeems them. That is the beauty of grace, isn’t it? It’s undeserved. It’s personal. It touches our deepest wounds and most secret battles.
But then, there is the pendulum swing in the other direction: When there is only emphasis on grace, we can miss truth…and Jesus IS truth so it is important that we don’t mis-represent what it is that truth actually is. So, how do we maneuver this? This type-A-math-and-science-loving-gal would love to tell you that there is a formula…in my experience, there is not. For me, I have had to practice the discipline of shutting my mouth and quieting my own thoughts so that I can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. This was not easy for me…anyone who knows me knows that I rarely shut up…so I had to start with just sitting and being quiet and still with no distractions (as a mom, this has been particularly challenging for me…I can’t even use the bathroom or take a shower without distractions and an audience.) But I started carving out just 5 minutes each day to sit in my back yard, usually with a cup of coffee, and asking God to help me quiet my thoughts and share his with me. It was really hard at first and there were times that I was unable to make myself shut up. With time and practice though, I got better at it and my mind would quiet faster because I had been training it to respond to certain cues: coffee, sitting outside on my back patio, quiet, and morning (this is how morning musings were birthed by the way.) I started asking God to use me…to let me be a tool in his hands…to teach me how to love people well.
Do you struggle with this too or is it just me? Are there people you have a hard time extending grace to? Do you end up “just telling it like it is” to them? (By the way, I have found no passages in the Bible that express the virtue of just telling it like it is…I’ve seen many about truth, forgiveness, love, and grace though.) Have you distanced yourself from God because “his people” are so difficult to love and, more than anything, you don’t want to be “that guy?” Consider this: maybe don’t judge God based on my life. Maybe don’t compare me to another or Christian or to a person who is not a Christian. Maybe take into consideration the difference between where my life would be without Jesus versus where my life is with him…because THAT is a huge difference.
Praying that we are all able to speak truth today but that it is tempered with love and grace so that it draws people to the God we deem worthy of worship. Much love friends,