Commentary: The gift of grace

August 21, 2013 

FILE PHOTOGRAPH/THE STATE

— About a year ago, I made my husband stop the car when I spotted a truck in the back of a small business off Guignard Drive. “GRACE” was written across its side in big, bold letters. Later, I showed the picture of the “GRACE” truck to my friends.

“I’m glad it comes in truckloads,” I captioned the picture aloud.

Those big words emblazoned on the side of the truck almost made it seem like it was delivering a fresh shipment of grace, which is an incredibly comforting thing to most. Who couldn’t use a little more grace in his or her life?

Grace is a wonder of the human condition because we all have this insatiable need for it, yet we can do nothing to earn it. By its very nature, it is a gift given to those who have done nothing to deserve it or those who have tried everything to get it. The Bible, as well as the span of human history, is chock full of stories of grace that bear witness to this fact. Even now, I’m sure you, dear reader, can pinpoint a time in your life when you received undeserved favor when you expected recompense.

For those in the faith community, divine grace is our ever-present comfort. God’s grace is our assurance that we don’t have to pay the ultimate price for our mistakes. It’s hard to wrap one’s head around that kind of unconditional love. We rely on the fact that our Heavenly Father loves us and, despite our consistent failings, finds the strength to grant us daily grace.

Within the past couple months, I drove by the same small business again, looking for the “GRACE” truck. It was still there but looked a little older and a little more worn as if it had sat out for a while. It seemed the grace never made it to its location. I was reminded of how many times I had squandered the gift of grace or not extended it to someone who truly needed it.

Grace is only powerful when it is used. That’s why the song is called “Amazing Grace,” not “Abandoned Grace.” Grace, untapped, is useless.

We can refuse grace from our Heavenly Father for a past failure. Living in that type of regret gives no testimony to the power of God’s grace within us. We can refuse grace from others by indulging our personal pride, which will certainly drive a wedge into that relationship.

I would wager that the majority of people have no qualms in the receiving of grace. It’s the distribution of grace that can be problematic. It’s like we become grace hoarders, enjoying the comforts of divine grace, then refusing to pay it forward. This is true of every believer that I’ve known, especially myself. It’s shameful that I claim to know the power of God’s grace yet so often refuse to be gracious to those around me.

I think it’s easiest to extend grace in the more extreme situations. It is easy for me to be gracious to someone I just met. I don’t have the slightest hesitation being gracious to those I pity. Perhaps those I’m closest to or deal with every day are the ones who bear the brunt of my disfavor. It’s the everyday opportunities for grace that I miss. Maybe you have the same weakness.

How about the waiter who keeps forgetting to bring the steak sauce you asked for? What about to your kid who seems bent on leaving wet towels on the floor after a shower? How about grace to the sister who, for the 20th time, stole money from your wallet to feed her addiction? In those moments — those tiny annoyances that seem to occur 1,000 times a day — what surfaces: indignation or grace?

Imagine having an unlimited supply of money. With financial security a given, I imagine that most of us would gladly give money away to every worthy cause that came across our path. Right now, at your disposal, is an unlimited supply of grace and an unlimited amount of people who need it.

Living in grace takes practice and dedication. Employing grace in your daily life will not only help you adhere closely to your faith, but it will also change the way you view others.

Your personal pride must diminish. Your feelings of entitlement must fade away. You are no longer living life according to your preferences but by the rhythm of grace, a cadence orchestrated by God.

Email Jamie H. Wilson at faithmatterssumter@gmail.com.

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