This reflection comes from real-life grace bully, Scott Brand.

I have a pretty large dog who loves chasing squirrels. I know this is not a revelatory attribute, but my dog is less interested in catching and eating the squirrels and more interested in just chasing and playing with them. The problem is he unaware of how big he is, so it ends up being more of a Lennie-playing-with-rabbits scenario every time he catches one. Recently, I moved into a house that does not have a completely fenced in backyard, but now when I have to chain him up his tether doesn’t quite reach to the back of the yard where the squirrels play the most. Subsequently, he whines and whimpers at the end of his rope, unable to go join his little friends while they play and bury their acorns. He will sit there and watch for hours as they work endlessly to bury their acorns in preparation for winter.

Being in a new state means finding a new community. I was extremely comfortable with my community in my old home, so the process of finding safe people, or people at all, with whom to spend my time has been more stressful than I remembered from the last time I went through this process. I have found myself waiting with bated breath to have a text to hang out returned. I lose sleep at night as I process through the conversations of that day, anxiously wondering if I had said anything that would make these new people not want to spend time with me anymore. My brain is filled with new ways that I can prove myself a worthy member of this group of friends.

I can cook people dinner, or bring them things, or prove myself a worthy confidant, or be witty and entertaining. I’ll humbly refuse their help to show I’m a capable person that gives rather than takes. I’ll prove myself a wise, socially conscious contributor to conversation. That will keep them around.

In essence, I’m storing up acorns.


I know my patterns well enough to know (and dread) that I will eventually disappoint a member, if not every member, of the friend group in which I have placed myself. This is an inevitability. And, as a (slowly) recovering people pleaser, this terrifies me.

So, to prepare for the inevitable winter of disappointment, I have begun to store up little acorns of approval. If I do enough to be an ingratiated member of the group, then there will be enough stored up food of approval to weather the seasons of not being “valuable” to the community.

If I cook dinner enough times, or display my musical prowess, or do enough acts of service, then when I forget to show up somewhere or say something that offends someone or slip into a depressive episode where I’m not fun to be around there will be enough approval stored up that I won’t get ostracized from the group.

I’m building myself a case for my righteousness before the group.

My dog watches the squirrels store and eat their acorns, and he loves eating them as well. The problem is they are poisonous.

My subconscious (and sometimes very conscious) obsession with earning enough on the front end to survive an economic downturn is poisonous to my relationships. What should be the functions of a Biblical community become deposits on future expectations. I’ve done enough now—don’t kick me out later.

I’m using the law to justify myself before my friends, which is always reflective of what I am attempting to do before God.

I functionally look at God like some sort of bank. If I do enough “good” things on the front end, then when I mess up, my bank account will lose some money, but I won’t be broke. He won’t kick me out because my good has paid the advance on my bad.


A startling truth comes in like a sledgehammer through my desire to justify myself before God and my friends. I cannot, ever, store up enough acorns. My bank account can never be full enough to ward off bankruptcy.

This sounds obvious. I’m in seminary. Total depravity was an answer to a quiz question last week. I know I can’t do enough.

And yet I try.

My dog knows the acorns are poisonous. He’s dealt (consequently so have I) with the ramifications of eating them several times. And yet he keeps doing it.

Thankfully, I am not my dog.

The completed work of Jesus frees me to stop gathering acorns. It frees myself and my community to stop expecting acorns from others so that they might be accepted. It allows us to remain in community when we all eventually fail each other in some way. We’re all pulling from the same account, and Jesus has put the final word on keeping that account full forever.

We can rest.

Rest looks like giving up trying to earn my way into community. Rest looks like taking help from others that I can’t repay. Rest looks like playing dodgeball with the acorns we once buried away for a rainy day.

And we can’t do it without grace.