I'm not going to lie. Yesterday was a hard day. A really hard day. In fact, when I got to the cardiologist for an echocardiogram that he ordered, my blood pressure was higher than it had ever been in my whole life. So high that I couldn't get the echocardiogram done and have to go back this morning. And high blood pressure has never been an issue for me. I guess stress does affect it. Ugh.
Anyway, yesterday I was on the road for almost three hours and had a few small spurt trips in between.
And five times in those three hours, when I turned the radio on, the same song was playing. It appears that Matthew West, or possibly God, was determined that I receive the message multiple times that "Grace Wins Every Time."
So as I was up half the night hashing and rehashing my day, I kept asking myself, "Self, does grace really win every time?" because it sure doesn't feel like it. And then I started thinking about what we think winning looks like and realized that we may have it wrong.
So in the midst of my sleeplessness, I came up with three ideas.
1. I realized what winning does not look like:
Winning does not mean that people around you will understand you when you attempt to err on the side of grace. It doesn't mean that they will not criticize you.
Winning does not mean that the person receiving the grace will change immediately... or maybe ever.
Winning does not mean that the situation will change, that things will get easier, that just because we are being gracious things will go our way.
I have come to realize that grace, like forgiveness, is more about the one giving grace than the one receiving it. It's about knowing that I have loved well (or loved hard -- thanks Amanda for that great phrase) to the best of my ability. It is about not harboring resentment and having a clean conscious that I've done what I thought was best. It's about being able to have loving thoughts towards people who have not acted lovingly towards me and realizing that there is a reason they are the way they are. It's about offering forgiveness and grace to people who aren't sorry and haven't asked for forgiveness.
I realize that in being this vulnerable I am opening myself up to criticism, and that one criticism might be that I am bragging that I have some how "arrived" and consider myself better than others. It's not the case. I struggle daily to believe the best in people, to err on the side of grace, to press forward and live by the principles that I see God calling us to in Scripture.
Do I fail? Oh yes. But my intentions are always to offer grace.
2. I used to tell my kids that something when they were younger. I used to say, "It's not over until the fat lady sings. Have you heard me sing?" So one other thought is that we may be premature in accessing when the game is over. If the game's not over, we don't know whether or not grace has won. So my guess is that when the game is finally over, it will be grace that is the obvious winner.
3. Finally, I asked myself, if grace grace, doesn't win, what does? What is the opposite of grace? So I looked up antonyms of grace and a few are indecency, imbalance, ignorance thoughtlessness, ugliness, crudeness, rudeness, mercilessness. Or, in biblical terms, if we don't offer grace we offer judgment, condemnation, vengeance.... so I don't know about you, but I don't like the idea of any of those things winning.
At the end of my personal icky day, I found out that the state of MN had a really bad day. I found out that our country had a bad day. And I had to acknowledge that grace sure beats hatred, violence, racism, retribution... any of the things that the news reported to us last evening.
So after a couple hours of sleeplessness I have concluded that grace does indeed win every time. We may have the wrong idea what it means to win, but it's still grace. It may not feel like it yet, but it isn't over. And grace sure beats the antithesis of grace, whatever way you look at it.
I want to close with one of my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa:
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Be good anyway.
Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People need help, but may attack you if you try to help them.
Help them anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.