Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Grace Bothers Me

John is back in touch with us. After some time in jail and alcohol treatment, he has stumbled upon a job that has some promise for him. It involves convincing people to get new roofs after storms and it has some potential. In addition, he has a boss who is willing to take care of transportation and housing for him in the meantime so it's working out well. Ironically the office for this company is a mile from our house and the apartment he is talking about renting for John is about that close as well. So we are seeing him daily. And I'm not going to even ask any more questions about the job. He's got a pay advance and a place to live and he seems sober so it's all good.

Isaac and Courtney came up this weekend to see him/us and it isn't easy for them to get along. John hasn't been around Isaac for a long time and Courtney is used to doing things herself. John is trying to establish position as "Dad" and wanting Courtney to be quick to forgive while he is easily frustated with her. Others in our family are wondering why we are so quick to forgive him.... even though they have been eager to accept our forgiveness in the past for the things they have done to us.

As I was trying to explain all this yesterday, I was thinking about how much our kids have taught us about forgiveness. We have learned with clarity what Matthew West sings in his song "Forgiveness,"
It'll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what it's power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you

I explained to the kids that forgiveness may not have much of an effect on those we forgive, but it transforms us as we learn to offer grace. Our kids give us so many opportunities to learn that as they live out their anger towards others in our presence and direct it towards us. After years and years of it, we have learned the beauty of forgiveness.

So night before last Bart and I were reading in James chapter 2 where James is pointing out that if you screw up in one little way, you break the whole law. In other words, no sin is worse than the other and so we need to be careful to view others with mercey because we need it so desperately ourselves. The passage concludes with the words, "mercy triumphs over justice."

Then yesterday morning I was riding to work and heard Matt Redman's song, "Your Grace Finds Me." Except that I misunderstood the words (British accent maybe? :-) and I thought that he kept singing, "Your Grace Bothers Me." And I realized I agreed.

It bothers me when God extends His grace to other people who don't deserve it! Even though that is the point of grace-- that we don't deserve it -- it annoys me when people who are REALLY bad get offered grace. Just like my kids who are annoyed when we offer forgiveness to their siblings, even when they need it so desperately for themselves, I do the same thing.

When I was a teen I remember how frustrated I was when I realized the grace offered to the thief on the cross. Here I was committing myself to serving God for my WHOLE life and I was still going to get the same reward as a criminal who had only five minutes of life left? That BOTHERED me. But that's grace.

When dealing with kids who come from hard places, mercy and grace and forgiveness are daily concepts that both haunt us and save us. There is no other way to counteract the pain. And no matter how much it bothers those around us who don't understand, we have to offer grace. God's grace isn't fair.... that's not what it's about... because mercy triumphs over judgment.

Those words have been running through my mind again and again the last 24 hours. Your Grace Bothers Me. Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment.

They challenge me. They explain things to me. They motivate me. They give me peace about the way our lives are "turning out." I don't like them... my personality is one that can be harsh and judgmental and critical and black and white and my first thoughts have often been ones of punishment and justice and fairness and people getting what they deserve... and yet that's not what I'm called to do.

I heard it explained years ago that Grace is getting what you don't deserve, and Mercy is not getting what you do deserve. Makes a lot of sense to me.

So, at the risk of being repetitive and redundant, let me challenge us to let our first thoughts and our first words every time to be love... to be forgiveness..mercy...grace.

Because in the end, Mercy Triumphs Over Judgement. Mercy and Grace Win. Every time.


tashapork said...

I've noticed the same thing with kids from these backgrounds, but if I think of it from their perspective it makes a little more sense. They were told that because their birth families did the wrong things, they couldn't be a part of their lives so the idea of cutting someone out of your life for bad choices comes much more naturally to them than to the rest of us. Even if the birthparents had many chances and it was for their own protection doesn't make it any less real to them. Also many of them were were moved from foster homes and had ties cut from those families reinforces this idea especially, but not only if the move was due to their behavior.
They also often were raised in scarcity economy where there often wasn't enough food, love, nurturing, etc. The way they may be seeing things is that if you give grace to ___, there won't be enough left for them. Its often illogical, but its engrained in some of their thought processes.

Kristen McGraw said...

My troubled teen is one of my biological children who was raised in a loving home. I have struggled with the choices that he has made and often questioned my own abilities as a mother because of it. One of his siblings often questions why I give him one more chance and why I continue to hope that change is around the next corner. Obviously grace bothers him also. Fostering has taught me that children can't be fixed within a chosen time frame. Some children need more time to grow up and need more support than others. Your post reminded me that it is okay to forgive my troubled child and continue to hope for the best. Thanks!

Miz Kizzle said...

Not being a Christian, I'm not bothered by what the Bible tells me I should do when my children fail to live up to my expectations. Doesn't the Bible say it's okay to sell your kids into slavery to pay off your debts, and to drown them if they misbehave? Not a great parenting guide, IMO. I love my children unconditionally because no one is perfect and we all deserve another chance.