I was sitting in Bible Study today, listening to various stories of struggle – both in scripture and in the lives of the women around me – and hearing of the great moments where the dawning of grace came upon each character in the stories. My dear friend who God has weaved in and out of my life, decade by decade for thirty years (and who is just as sinful as I – she made she say that!) shared a story that really stuck with me, so I decided I needed to write it down. You know me, I always like to write down a good grace story.
We were discussing Psalm 2 and the Psalmist who was describing the chaos in the world at that time. As our time went on we shared feelings about the injustice in the world today, and how we deal with that emotionally. We landed on how God isn’t surprised or unsettled by the chaos he saw then, or now. We may be unsettled by it, and we sometimes feel the need to fix things and change people’s feelings about certain injustices. That can be a good thing if we are bringing awareness to a situation, but it also can be bad. When we can change injustice in the world it’s always a win, as long as you don’t steal the lesson learned.
Everyone has a great story. Some stories are bigger and more dramatic than others, but that doesn’t take away from the importance of each story. And there is always a back story to the tale that we don’t know in someone’s journey and the lessons they’ve learned from it. You know, the lesson God teaches us during a time of hardship and which maybe someone hasn’t learned yet.
Dear friend (her name is being withheld to protect her guilt) shared about her mom, who lost her own mother as a baby. A new stepmother soon came into the picture who raised her from the age of five. Much like Cinderella, her stepmother mistreated her and as dear friend’s story went on today you could see the tears begin to well up in her eyes, as if no one could really know of the pain her mother had endured. As her mother grew up and married, dear friend never knew of the unjustness that had happened in her mother’s life because her mother chose not to highlight the evil to her own children, but rather to promote the redemptive story. Dear friend’s grandmother was always invited to holiday gatherings and events, and her stepdaughter always treated her with kindness…her children never knowing of the pain she had survived.
As dear friend became an adult and could handle the realities of her mom’s childhood, stories began to come out and one particular time that dear friend will never forget she questioned her mom and said “how COULD you allow her into your home after all she has done to you?” Her mother wisely turned to her and simply said “don’t you borrow my grace!” What dear friend took away from that was that God had bestowed on her mom great amounts of mercy and grace towards the woman who had caused her so much pain. She, in essence, was telling dear friend not to steal from her the gift of a forgiving heart and the grace he had gifted her towards her stepmother, or take on her battle as if it were her own. She had overcome that story (and yes, it probably took time) by God’s grace, and didn’t want dear friend picking the offense back up because it wasn’t hers to carry.
Can we live in a world where this happens? Where a God doesn’t follow a black and white policy for injustice? Can we love a God that loves ugly unkind people? These are questions that I have to ask myself each and every day.
Nope, God doesn’t have policies. He’s so personal in how he deals with us one day, and it may be completely different the next day, or it may be different with the next person because he knows the back story. It’s sort of like child-rearing, where one moment we want to paddle our little hellions behinds because you know that’s what they deserve and need at the moment, and another time knowing that what they need is mercy in the moment. God knows the back story, and he knows the end of the story, and whatever he’s doing its for the good.
We, however, want a neat black and white policy that applies to every person and situation in life…except maybe us. Do I need a situation to be changed and fixed right now in order to trust God? Isn’t that another form of needing control? Sigh…again these are things I struggle with everyday.
In the most recent Disney version of Cinderella, at the end when she’s walking out the door to a new life with Prince Charming, Cinderella turns to her stepmother and says to her, “I forgive you.” Don’t you love that? What I walked away from Bible Study today with was this: I need to keep looking for God’s little treasures as part of the chapters he is writing in my story and in yours. They may not look the same, and the outcome may be different. We won’t always be saved, or fixed, or changed immediately…but it’s always going to be a great story.
And leggo of my grace! Git yer own!