Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Flip Side of Grace

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you will know that I am on a slow walk towards grace and freedom.  My husband calls it "our freedom journey".  We're walking out of a form of legalism, of expectation based religion, out of constant criticisms, out of the "front" that missionaries so often portray, into grace, freedom, truth, transparency.

It's been quite the trip!

We both owe a lot to a few who have chosen to walk alongside of us.  Some have done that just for an afternoon, others for a year or so, and some have stuck with it for the whole ride.  We are indebted to them all, and each holds a special place in our heart; each we love.

If you've been reading for awhile, you will also know some things in our lives:

1. We're in a cross-cultural marriage.
2. We lost a child.
3. We went through a marriage crisis.
4. We went through a sudden work related crisis.

You will also know that I have struggled with each of these things.  I still struggle with some of them at different times.  Each has changed me.

Most recently, I have been struggling with the work-related crisis.  The crisis itself was not the hardest thing.  It was the reactions of others that were so hard.  But that is a story that has already been told as much as it can be told. My blog has been more silent as I walked through this lovely minefield of PTSD.  The horrible disconnect from everything is lifting, like fog as the morning sun travels towards the high point of the sky, and I am able to make out shapes and recognize others.  I'm at least to the point that I can verbalize some of what I am going through, and that is a big step in the right direction!

But I still hurt from what happened.  The surprising and difficult thing for me is "why did the hurt come from people who should have been the ones who most supported us?"  That question is hard.

I went to church last week tired.  I debated about just staying home, but instead I told God that I was too tired to listen or care, but if He wanted to speak to me, He could try. (Really, reading my blog will totally blow away the idea that missionaries are anywhere remotely close to perfect!)

Our pastor was talking about the idea that we think we deserve something to happen or not to happen based on how we have acted, and that God is not operating in the sphere of thought.

I listened!  And I began to think.

What if it is not me getting or receiving good things?  Me being rewarded with rewards.  Not resting or deserving good.  Not saying, "I've been through this or that, suffered that, done well, so I need a rest, a this, a that... to be protected, to be honored, to be.... "; but it is not our rewards that God is interested in - it is us God is interested in.  Us as His trophies.  Not as His things - as in a used thing uncared for; but as His show-off valuables, a thing delighted in, as in a work of art, a detailed delight.  "See what a good job I did on that one!" 

Stepping out of the works cycle means stepping out of both boundaries.  "I did bad - I will be punished" - yes, but also "I did good, I deserve good - to be protected, to be loved."  It would be an awful reality to live in that (out of that cycle).  Totally unfair - nothing I can do can help or hurt  - and my treatment is dependent on the capricious whims of someone else - except for this one fact: the character of the God we deal with.  That He is good and loving is the only thing that makes this whole crazy system work.

It is so outside of our way of thinking - so totally unfair.  Which is funny, because we will happily take the "bank error in your favor" unfairness, but aren't so thrilled about the "hey, but I was good!" type of unfairness.  The pain and unfair things coming in times it shouldn't from people it shouldn't.

Freedom from the "do this, do that" mentality means freedom from both ends of the spectrum.  One we greet with delight; one is harder to shake free from.  But there is only so much freedom in having one wrist unmanacled.

God is the same - trustable, good.  He is operating outside of our "fair" cycle because He is interested in us as trophies of His work, not as people who "finally get what we deserve" - either good or bad.  Some how that makes dealing with the pain caused by people who should have supported us easier to handle.

I think what hit me that Sunday was that I can't take grace as the freedom from the "you get what you deserve" and not take it as also freedom from "you don't get what you deserve".  What happens to us is not related in either way to what we deserve.  What happens to me is a result of a God who is trustable and who cares about me working to make me His master-piece.
(There is caution in how I say that.  Because of my past, I react very strongly to the thought of being used.  If you say, "God let you go through this so He could use you", you had better stand far away as I am liable to punch you.  God "getting anything" out of me sickens me.  I don't want to be a property, a used thing.  But put in the context of God is creating something beautiful that He will delight in - like a painting, and I can handle it.  I quilt, and I like nothing better than when someone takes time to stop and admire the quilt and see the stitches and design and hear the struggles and how I overcame them with this quilt.  I am not "using" my material, I am creating something that is both praised and gives me praise.)

1 comment:

Jamie Jo said...

The more I read, the more I am convinced I have to learn about grace. My son and ddil are on a similar journey which I have not always understood. Your writings make it so much more clear. Thanks you, dear friend, for your writings. I love the tapestry being woven in your life! :)