Deeper Than My View of Grace

Sunrise over the soccer field

I will never understand His grace.

God has this crazy plan to do things completely opposite of the way I think they should be done.

For example, today is the last day of my college’s Fall Break. There’s, like, 20 people on campus max. Even though I live close enough to go home, I chose to observe at the high school on Thursday and Friday to earn hours for my Teacher Ed classes. I thought for sure that no college students would be attending my church (or singing in the worship band) this weekend because they would all be traveling, so I almost dreaded going. All I could think of was 64 verses of Just As I Am.

Of course, God works differently from how I think He should.

I got to church this morning to see more people than we usually have on a Sunday morning, including a college student who, of all things, led worship. It was no “Just As I Am” worship set, but it included a variety of genres.

Blended with “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” was “Your Love is Deep”, a song I hadn’t heard before. The verses declare that God’s love is “deep, high, long, and wide” and the chorus elaborates. The verse first of the chorus reads: “[Your love is] Deeper than my view of grace.”  His love is even deeper than how big I thought it was. His grace runs much deeper than my impression of its depth. Wow, what an awesome concept.

When the very thing I desired, prayed about, asked for advice about, and felt peace regarding did not come to fruition, I felt like God had refused me my dream. I couldn’t think of any reason His will would not include my will. After I heard him say “No,” I stopped listening to him. I did not want to hear what He would say.

I am a proud INFJ on the Meyers-Briggs, and my F (for Feeling) and T (for Thinking) are both very strong. So strong, in fact, that I sometimes score as an INTJ on the test. Anyway, I came away from this situation in thinking mode: Well, that doesn’t make any sense, but I guess that is what’s best. It took several weeks to process it as a feeler: I’m very disappointed. 

And I came to God with my heart full of disappointment-to-the-point-of-anger and I demanded to know why and how and what was He planning instead and God was like “Woah. Wait.” It was Job 38:2 all over again: “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?” Questions His wisdom. With ignorant words. Why would I question the wisdom of my great God? I mean, He created the entire universe – why do I doubt his provision in my life?

His ways are much different than mine. And, dare I say, better?

His love is deeper than my view of grace. This implies that my view of grace is inadequate. I wonder if I will ever be able to understand His grace. I wonder if my view will always be inadequate. We do not worship that which we understand completely, so I wonder if I will always be wondering about God and his incomprehensible ways.

See, even in my moments of misunderstanding, of blaming God, of being furious like a teenager denied her wishes, God still loves me and he still lavishes me with an abundance of grace.  Even in God’s justice, he is kind. Even in his righteousness, he is forgiving. I can fight him and argue with him, and he takes it like a faithful father and welcomes me into his arms.

This is not a license to be angry with God. This is not an excuse to argue with him about the smallest of things. I don’t want to take advantage of his grace. But this is a realization that even in his refusals, he provides. This is a realization that he knows what he’s doing. This is a realization that his grace and his ways are pretty much incomprehensible to my finite mind.

And yet… His ways are good. His grace is new every morning. His ways are right. His heart is kind.

His grace is more than enough.

86 Degrees in October

2013 has been a year of learning about grace.  I’ve blogged about it often, and I even made it my OneWord for the year.  It shows up everywhere and appears in the most random places. It permeates my thoughts and threatens my theology. Grace is my thing.

Hannah's piece: Grace Upon Grace

We had a speaker in chapel yesterday who pursued the concept of creativity. [Chapel video forthcoming.] “People say that they are not creative,” Carl Dylan said, “But think about the person you really hate. We are creative in the ways that we hate people.”

I felt so convicted.

Thankfully, he didn’t stop there. He suggested that we should be creative in finding healing, especially in relation to people who have hurt us. He also suggested that we should be creative in the ways that we love people. We put energy into what we find beautiful, he argued, so we should pursue what God defines as beautiful and put energy into those things. We are called to love, and to be creative in our love, because love is something God calls beautiful.

I reflected on these concepts all day yesterday, and it hit me during worship at SMF last night that God is creative in his love towards us. I mean, I love sunsets, butterflies are symbols to me that everything is going to be okay, grace is my thing… And God shows me sunsets, butterflies, and examples of grace all the time. He is like a mindful, patient, gentle lover, wooing his bride. God is also creative in that he did something unprecedented to show us his love 2,000 years ago.

He sent a sacrifice in the form of his only Son.

That’s kindof a big deal. Imagine Aslan, coming forward as a substitute for Edmund. We are the guilty Edmund, awaiting our fate, and God is Aslan, choosing to enact a long-dormant provision in the law for our benefit. Edmund and the other children didn’t know that Aslan would be resurrected, but he was. God is alive.

There is something intimately creative in the Father’s ways. I guess that’s why we also call him the Creator.

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s October. We’ve got a lovely high of 86 here in the Southeast, but October still rolls in, whether or not the weather wants to admit it. God paints leaves changing as well as sunsets and sunrises, and with new days come new chances.

Unfortunately, October is not my favorite month. Without going into too much detail, the past three autumns have not been enjoyable times of my life. And I wish I could say that I have fully moved past everything and that I’m in a totally new place, which I am in a sense, but I’m definitely not at the same time. I wish I could say, to echo Switchfoot’s song, that October “found me on my knees again… to blur the lines that mark where I begin and you end,” but I can’t. I wish, for the life of me, that I could. I wish that October rolled in and found me literally on my knees before the Father. But it is not so. I am not where I want to be with God.

I am disillusioned.

I am disappointed with God, for keeping me in the dark about so many things. I am disappointed in myself for being impatient about my future, about God’s plans that are both right now and too far away. Believe me, I am both incredibly thankful that I’ve come this far and incredibly excited about where I’m going. But I am also at a weird place. I think some of this weird feeling is grief, at losing certain potentialities and certain places (like the little chapel on campus that is scheduled to be torn down). I also think some of this is conviction about love.

There is a realization that even the people who have caused us hurt deserve to be loved, simply because they are people, too. God’s grace does not stop (in fact, it shows up more) when we sin. Am I not called to love my brother or sister as myself? To love through and despite hurt and/or disappointment, whatever the case may be? God gives me exactly what I don’t deserve. Am I not also commanded to give my brother or sister what they don’t deserve?

I not talking about a lack of boundaries. Let’s just get that clear.  But I am talking about creativity of love for our brothers and sisters. At the end of the day, we are still one big family of believers.

It may be 86 degrees in October, but it is still October, my not-so-favorite month, and I am going to make the best of it. I am going to pursue graciousness. I learned earlier this year that grace relaxes perfectionism and doesn’t demand her own way. I learned that grace is what lets us struggle like buildings that can shake in an earthquake. I learned that grace means second chances. Grace keeps no record of wrongs. Grace is undeserved privilege. Grace is freedom that we don’t deserve.

Grace is forgiveness, again and again and again, over and over and over.

Butterfly Photo credit: Paulo Brandão / Foter / CC BY-SA

Broken Circles

Broken CirclesI am the kind of person who likes structure, organization, and carefully executed plans. Sometimes, believe it or not, God works within my preferences for structure, giving me a tiny taste of his organization and his planned provision in life. And sometimes, God works very much behind the scenes or in ways I don’t understand, showing me instead that his plans are far greater than any of mine could ever be, and that he is directing this world with precision I could not begin to understand.

Since the beginning of this semester, about a month ago, I have been seeing many things come full circle. I’m rooming with the same roommate I had freshman year, doubting and recommitting to my major once again, and dealing with past struggles. I got a message out of the blue from one of my best friends in high school, who I haven’t spoken to in years, just wanting to share with me about how things are going for her. October marks four years that I have attended my home church, and four years that I have known the amazing pastor and his wife and kids who are seriously family to me. Everything was coming to a close in an organized and structured way, and I was unconsciously preparing myself to go to Thailand for twelve weeks and then to graduate a month after that. I could see it happening, and I was okay with what I saw.

And then reality hit.

A door closed, student teaching became a bit uncertain, stress piled up, meetings had to be missed and rescheduled. I was a bit pathetic and emotional. Then there was a death in my church family this week. There is a lot of unknown.

When something “comes full circle,” it completes a cycle, returns to its beginnings.

American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy

It is as if some of the circles, instead of “coming full circle” and allowing for neat closure, are stopping or even breaking before they reach the other side. To my finite mind, the resolution I expected September and this semester to bring isn’t going to happen.

But is not my finite mind very, um… finite? And is not my God very infinite? Might it be that what I see as broken circles, God sees as a masterpiece he is creating? A plan so big that I simply cannot wrap my mind around it? Might it be that God sees beauty in things I find broken?

Perhaps I wanted the “coming full circle” idea to work because it seems neat and put together. I can daydream about future plans and “perfect” endings all I want, but real life is God’s plan, and he’s taking care of it. I am learning to embrace his ways that are higher than mine, even when they don’t make sense right away. “Besides being complicated,” C.S. Lewis wrote, “reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect.”

So, while I am confused as to why not everything will end with my opinion of nice, neat closure, I am reminded that God’s plan for providing closure for my college years is perfect, whether or not it seems that way now. I can rest in the fact that we no longer have the innocence (and inexperience) of freshmen and that we can make decisions like adults. I can rest in the fact that I have been blessed with a community here at college that is messy and real. I can rest in the fact that God is still making beautiful things out of his broken and imperfect children. I can rest knowing even when they don’t seem perfect to me, God’s ways are perfect. Very much so. Even when I doubt him, I wouldn’t change those perfect plans for the world.

God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true…

– Psalm 18:30


Photo credit: Elizabeth Foote / Flickr / CC BY-SA