The problem with grace is that it is unpredictable and out of control.

Grace does not operate in a universe that is safe and orderly. It does not unfold along the tidy lines that enable me to feel secure and confident in my external circumstances. Grace is not interested in my plans, my strategies, my needs, wants, demands, or desires. Grace works independently of what I may feel is best or necessary.  It does not consult my little vision of how life should unfold.

It was in the very midst of circumstances contrary to anything he would have chosen, that the Apostle Paul discovered the presence of grace:

to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. (II Corinthians 12:7-10)

The problem with grace is that it does not concern itself with my comfort or with things making sense or following the patterns I dictate.

Paul did not want a “thorn” in his flesh. He certainly did not desire “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.” And yet, these were the circumstances that brought Paul to the place where he was able to discern the sufficiency of “grace” alone. Without the struggle of circumstances that did not conform to his will, Paul would have lived in the illusion of a life that was not blessed and sustained by grace.

As Jesus said,

Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.(Matthew 19:23)

I am closed to the power and beauty of grace when I am able to make life operate according to my wishes. When things are going my way I do not need to confront the inadequacy of my capacity to live fully the life for which I was created.

Grace always draws outside the lines of my capacity for comprehension and control; so grace always requires trust. The skill of operating according to grace, is the skill of seeing more deeply.

No matter what my circumstances may appear to suggest, grace calls me to see that life is bent towards goodness. As much as human actions, and even at time the actions of creation, may appear disordered and contrary to life, grace looks beneath the surface and declares that life is always oriented toward well-being.

Grace invites me to trust the process. This is what is happening at the moment. It may not be according to my liking; it may be unsettling and uncomfortable.

I can fight and rail against reality. Or I can accept that if I open my heart, there lies within every circumstance the possibility of goodness and hope. The light may be dim and be difficult to discern. The goodness seem infinitesimal; but it is always present. I am always free to align myself, even if only in the most limited way, with the goodness that is the never-failing presence of grace.

 

 

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