Posted tagged ‘Ephesians 2:8’

Grace Makes Me Squirm!

July 9, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     July 9, 2019

                                  

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8, NIV)

When it comes to foreign languages I’m suspect! Always have been, from two years of Spanish in high school, a flunking quarter of Latin in college, and a “Did Not Pass” in Hebrew one fateful term in seminary. I could blame it on my Kentucky and Southern Ohio roots where English words are pronounced differently or just man up to my weakness.

It drove me to cheat! Yes, that’s right! In Mr. Gerling’s Spanish 1 class at Maysville High School I looked for any way to avoid flunking, so there were a few times where I glanced at someone else’s “examen” (I just used Google to find out the Spanish word for exam! See!)

So when I received a “B” in Spanish the feeling of accomplishment was tainted by my own feelings of guilt. What I received I hadn’t earned. It made me squirm, but, of course, I was not forthcoming with the sharing of that knowledge with my parents. 

There is something about us, about our nature, that makes us uncomfortable about receiving something we haven’t legally earned. I should say “most of us”. The recent college admissions scandal is an example of people who have used their influence and wealth to gain something not earned, and they didn’t seem to feel uncomfortable over the situation until they were discovered.

But I was “squirmed” by my Spanish B! 

I think of that classroom episode when I ponder the grace of God. Cheating on Spanish tests is not the reason I think of grace, but rather that feeling of guilt- Baptist guilt, mind you, the worst kind!- that descended upon me.

What I’ve found is that a lot of followers of Christ are very uncomfortable with grace. It’s like they snuck into the ballpark and suddenly found themselves in the VIP seats. There is that nagging feeling about receiving something that was not earned. 

It makes grace, this amazing gift of God, so uncomfortable to receive. 

Many followers of Jesus resort to one of our foundational societal norms: earning whatever it is we desire to receive. Most of us desire to be loved. Some people go through their whole lives trying to earn their parents’ love. Some spouses try to earn the love of their husband or wife, even though they’ve said marriage vows that say as much. We desire to be loved.

Followers of Christ desire to be loved by God. Some accept his unconditional love and experience the embrace of His grace. From my 36 years of pastoral ministry, however, I will tell you that most Christians are so uncomfortable with the grace of God that they seek to earn it. 

They serve out of obligation. They worship out of duty. They pray out of a sense of  responsibility. They read scripture as if it’s a chore. The spiritual barrier in their lives is the acceptance of God’s grace. They just can’t quite go there. It feels…what’s the word…unearned!

And that’s because that’s what it is! Unearned. It goes against the grain.

There are, mind you, other people who are on the other end of the spectrum. That is, they take the grace of God for granted. But that’s a conversation for another day.

Over the years the people who have embraced the grace of God and lived their lives refreshed by His grace are a small congregation. Many others fluctuate between grace-filled living and trying to earn the love of God. I know, I’m one of them!

I squirm as I admit that, even more than I squirmed when the B showed up on my report card for Spanish 1. 

Hide and Slowly Seek!

July 5, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              July 5, 2018

               

                                          

“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith- and this is not from yourselves-it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8, NIV)

I played “hide and seek” with my granddaughter a couple of days ago. Corin, who turned three at the end of March, doesn’t quite get the strategy of the game yet, which made it even more fun and funny.

She went to hide as I counted. As soon as I tromped up the steps to the second floor of her family’s house I could hear the giggling. She was hiding underneath the covers of her parents’ bed. Three year olds have a very difficult time not making any movements. The bedspread kept moving like a fan was blowing on it. I slowly made my approach, talking the whole time, until I lifted the covers to a bundle of screams and laughter.

And then she hid again! I went downstairs to count to some random figure. 

“Ready or not here I come!”

Distant giggles.

My heavy feet thundered on each step to indicate my ascent up the stairs. “I wonder where she might be?” She was hiding…under the covers in her parents’ bed…again!

What does a granddad do when his granddaughter makes it so easy to find her? He pretends to not see her, to loudly announce that he’s looking in other rooms and places which causes her to giggle even more.

Slowly I narrow down my search to her special spot, and then I make mention of the lump underneath the bedspread (pause for more giggles) before throwing the covers back to reveal her again. 

Third time…same hiding place!

Fourth time…you guessed it!

Fifth time…yes! Each time I tried my hardest to be blind. I even became more creative in my ability to not see, checking inside toilets, taking a peek inside a lamp shade, and gazing behind a picture hanging on the wall. Each look was announced to the giggler, before discovering her for the fourth time…fifth time in the exact same spot, even the same side of the bed!

That. not occurred to me, is a picture of the  grace and forgiveness of God! He sees our hiding tendencies, our covering up of our secrets, and he still graces us with his forgiveness.

Never once did I say to Corin, “Again! You’re hiding in the same place again! This is getting monotonous!” I searched and found. When we hide our hearts God seeks.

Although God does not enjoy our hiding from him he will always seek us, always forgive us, and always respond to our staying away with grace-filled drawing close…even when we return to the same dark place again and again.