Monday, August 26, 2013

by grace alone

As Amy, Elise, Michael and I pull heavy grocery bags from the trunk of the taxi, I hear the drum of footsteps on pavement.  John and Hassan, two young teen Filipino boys, spot us and come running to help.  They grab the rest of the bags and carry them in through our gate to the front door.  They hadn't been hired to help, but I find some cookies to share with them in thanks for their willingness.  When I bring the cookies outside, I find them totally at home in our front yard throwing darts at the dart board in the driveway.

'Salamaat, Tita Barbara!' they say, munching as they play.  Then John asks, 'Buy a coconut?'  And my mind flashes back to a day in March of 2012 when these same two boys lost my trust over a coconut.  They had borrowed my biggest, best knife to cut through the tough shell that day, and after they left I found my knife gone. I never saw it again.

I miss the knife, but the greater issue was that John and Hassan, boys who I'd known for several years, would betray my trust, and steal from me.  I wondered at the time if I'd ever see them or trust them again.

Today I find myself reflecting on how time has healed that wound.  John told me one day that they had broken my knife as they cut the coconut, and from what I understand, they decided that it would be better just to get rid of it.  My communication skills broke down about then, and I wasn't able to ask more questions, or to explain that they should have told me right away.

I still don't know the entire story.  I never will.  But then, how many times do I ever know the full story of a wrong done, even when it's communicated in my own language?  How many times do I interpret motives and actions by the limited information I have, without the grace to realize that there is a whole lot behind the scenes that I don't know about the situation? 

I tell John that I won't buy a coconut today, and he leaves with a smile and a wave.  I know now that John and Hassan didn't act maliciously toward me on the day they took my knife.  I'm pretty sure that it was an accident, and that they may not have had the moral framework to know how to honestly deal with such an incident.

It makes me thankful to God for His amazing grace toward me when I do Him wrong.  I'm grateful that, unlike me, He DOES know the entire story. And His grace covers over a multitude of sins.

What does His grace look like?

It looks like a lender who feels compassion toward the debtor who owes him an enormous sum.
It's not justice. 
It's not unusual patience to wait for the check for damages.  
No, he feels compassion - big enough to extend thoroughly undeserved grace; 
to cancel the debt. (Matthew 18)

That’s me.  The one with the huge debt that’s been cancelled.  And I incur more debt every day as I sin against God.  As I put my desires before Him.  As I neglect to do what I know is right to do. As my wrong attitudes fester deep inside. As I fail to love others as myself.

“God...made us alive with Christ…in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace.”  
 Ephesians 2:4-7
How, in the face of His unprecedented compassion toward me, 
in the shadow of such incomprehensible grace,
 could I refuse to show grace to others? 

Oh, but just like that man of Matthew 18, I find a way…
When I have unrealistic expectations of my dear husband.
When our children once again fail to read my mind.
When I hear about the movie their friend went to see.  How could any good parent allow such a thing?
When a promise is not kept.
When someone upsets my plans.
When the persistent street kid at my gate keeps calling and calling and calling.
When I make a judgement without knowing the whole story.

Only as I receive His grace, distributed from His incomparably rich store, will His grace overflow in my life. Hassan and John's friendliness and willingness to help us with the groceries today is entirely a result of grace. Oh. may my life bear more fruits of grace.

“O to grace how great a debtor 
daily I’m constrained to be; 
let that grace Lord, like a fetter, 
bind my wand’ring heart to Thee..."
 Truly by grace alone...

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