Recently, I have found myself reflecting on grace. As I have been preparing for my upcoming marriage (9/26/09), finished seminary, moved from Pittsburgh, PA, to Charleston, SC, and started the process of thinking what will be next, I have been asking myself what is grace? While thinking about this unique gift from God, I have come to the conclusion that grace is perhaps one of the hardest lessons for us as humans to learn about and accept from God.

Our bound wills do not allow us to accept the notion of grace. The thing about grace, is that it sounds like something that is too good to be true. We live in a world where the pursuit of excellence and perfection will only do (academics, sports, music, etc.). As a result of never fully measuring up, we rebel and we try to fix our wounds with the drug of our own choosing. All in all, we pick something that we feel we can ultimately have total control over. In this vicious process, any idea of grace is lost as we try to gain control. Thinking about Romans 7 here…

The way I see it, there are two major misunderstandings of God’s unfailing grace. Some of us are ‘do-gooders’ and show our ignorance of God’s grace by working hard trying to earn it, while others of us show our misunderstanding by thinking that God’s grace is inaccessible to us. The latter of these two is where I find a lot of my generation struggling with.

The human mind is a powerful thing, and it is perhaps the chief manipulator in telling us how unworthy we are. Moving back to Charleston has allowed me to become reacquainted with old friends who all seem to be approaching the 30 mark. Most of them are unmarried, over-educated, and suffering and/or recovering from some sort of addiction (drugs, work, sex, you name it…) as a result of trying to self-medicate the let downs in life.

Needless to say, this has lead to several interesting conversations as they know I have just finished seminary and am preparing for a career within the church. Most proclaim to believe in God and most even proclaim to be Christian – though choosing not to attend church. As I have asked the questions “what does the Gospel mean to you?” and “what is grace?,” the answers have been interesting. Often times neither of the questions are answered and I hear about the pain and suffering, the guilt and depression, and the anxiety and fear, my friends are experiencing in their lives. As I try and redirect their focus to their faith, I hear more times than not that they know they cannot be good enough for God, so they despair of ever having a closer (and dare I say personal, thanks ++KJS) relationship with the Lord.

I find my own self identifying with the same thoughts and feelings of those of my friends. It is all too easy to allow my mind to slip into the same patterns that lead to destruction. Romans, Ephesians, and 2 Corinthians speak the loudest to me when I find myself slipping back into the rut. It is becoming clearer to me that the road ahead does not get easier. Life isn’t perfect. But because of the cross, we are able to have faith in the Lord and experience the true and great gift of God’s never-failing love towards us. As a result, we find that through love we are able to follow the 2 great commandments that St. Matthew writes about in his gospel text.

Below is a beautiful hymn written by Julia Johnson who totally gets what grace is all about for those of us who need to be reminded that grace is not too good to be true, but that it is too good and completely true.

Grace, Grace
Julia Johnson

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord
Grace that exceeds our sin and o
ur guilt
Yonder on Calv
ary’s mount outpoured
There where the blood of the Lamb was pilt

Grace, grace, God’s grace

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within
Grace, grace, God’s gra
Grace that is greater than all our sin

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold
Threaten the soul with infinite loss
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold

Points to the refuge, the mighty cross

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide
What can avail to wash it away?

Look! there is flowing a
crimson tide
Whiter than snow you may be today

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace
Freely bestowed on all who believe

You that are longing to see His face

Will you this moment His grace receive?