I woke up yesterday to pink clouds. The sky was preparing for the day, but the sunrise was still a ways off. I made coffee and went out to the back porch to watch the morning colors. And I was grateful – overwhelmed with gratitude, in fact. I was grateful to wake up before my alarm. I was grateful for coffee. I was grateful for a week spent at the ocean and grateful to be back in my home. I was grateful to pray with my eyes open, because praying with my eyes closed puts me to sleep. I was grateful for Monday and the mundane tasks planned for the day.
On mornings like these, every fiber of who I am willingly admits I have received grace upon grace upon grace. Breath in my lungs is grace, waking up to a new day is grace, and I take both those for granted before most days even begin. My life literally depends on God’s grace.
It’s a common belief that receiving God’s grace changes me. It doesn’t. How I receive God’s grace makes all the difference in who I become. It shapes my perspective of God, myself, and others.
I can receive His grace believing I deserve it, take credit for all the good in my life, and issue blame when things go wrong. Grace + pride.
As mentioned in the beginning of this series, humility reminds me I am not God and there is an order to things that my finite mind can’t imagine or comprehend. When I receive His grace with humility, I receive His Spirit – and a completely new perspective. My eyes open to His kindness all around me. Even in circumstances I wouldn’t choose, I see things through the lens of hope. Gratitude consumes me, prompting generosity within me, and somewhere between His grace and my gratitude, my capacity to love others explodes. Which is good, because my path will inevitably cross with people who need Jesus. And grace.
The gospels are story after story of Jesus receiving people, showing compassion, listening, forgiving, and getting close to people labeled bad, unclean, wrong, and unloveable. In many of these interactions, He hardly spoke a word. His presence, body language, behaviors, and the manner in which He looked at people, translated the message of grace – that it was for everyone. How they received it, of course, was completely up to them.
When grace motivates everything I do, think, or say, I receive others with compassion. I see an individual, not a ‘they, them, those’.
When I put my competence aside and recognize human understanding is limited (mine included), I receive others with mercy. I see the person rather than their opinion, problem, weakness, or choices.
When I appreciate the human condition (mine included) is shaped by hurt and loss, joy and belonging, hope, disappointment, and all things in between, I receive others with patience and affection. I listen. I may even learn.
Grace is the mystery of God. If I receive His grace, but it doesn’t translate in my message (spoken or unspoken), or manifest in my being or my doing, it is wasted. From head to heart to hands. People will remember the way I received them and how they felt when we shared common ground. Generously extending the grace I have received isn’t a nice idea, it’s the measure of my faithfulness – evidence His Spirit lives in me. If what comes out of me is not a fruit of the Spirit, I have work to do.
If I’m engaged in a conversation about a polarizing issue and I speak truth without grace, I have work to do. But that’s for step 4.
Relax my expectations. Release the tensions.
Step 3: Receive others with generous grace.