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The Discontentment of Grace

It is the name of an older woman. It is what you hope for from the police officer who clocked you doing forty-four in a thirty-five. It is a theological concept. It is the acrostic: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. It is a silver bullet neutralizing hell and granting heaven’s reprieve. It is synonymous with the helpless pity of God to exact justice on a deserving group of hellions. It is an ideal of little value to the concerns hounding me Monday through Saturday. It is a sub-point in the pastor’s sermon on Sunday morning that prompts sacrilegious thoughts as I grapple with guilt on Sunday afternoon.

Are grace and un-grace, graciousness and ungraciousness, mutually exclusive? Is there some pivotal point where life teeters between the two? Do I live either in grace or un-grace, manifest either grace or ungraciousness? Does grace parade itself on the Spirit-filled side of life and call to me in my ungraciousness to extract myself from the mire of my many messes and join in the pursuit of God?

I don’t think so; just the contrary.

While I have lived much of my life by the notions of these opening thoughts, now that I am older, have come to grips more graphically with the failure of my fleshly efforts, and have just enough wisdom to recognize the bankrupt abilities of my giftedness, I see a different grace than the one of my younger days. Instead of a concept, I see a person. Instead of a theological tenet, I see a sacrifice. Instead of an abstract sermon, I see a life laid down. Instead of a distant goal, I see the strong arm of a Father. Instead of a lofty ideal, I see an incarnate God. Instead of a golden rule, I see an engaged God desperately attempting what only He would try: an invasion of hell to bring the heaven of His heart to my wounded concept of who He is.

Grace is the good news that God is not aloof. Grace is the encouraging declaration that He is present and engaged. Grace is the pursuit of God to encounter me face-to-face. Grace is a royal robe cast off carelessly across the arm of heaven’s throne in order to don the humility—and certain demise—of manhood. Grace is the intervention of all that God is into all that He is not in the world where I live. Grace is the passionate determination of God to share His heart with me.

Why?

In hopes that I will notice, and recognize His overture. In hopes that I will see Him in all that concerns me, and in so doing, invite His participation in all that I encounter. In hopes that I will find in Him, a new life rooted in His demonstration of grace—Jesus Christ. In hopes that I will discover the great gift He has given me of a new heart capable of bonding with His heart of grace. In hopes that He will find in me a partner to share eternity with and journey through life with until its end.

So great is our Father’s desire to share His heart of grace with us that He is determined to reveal His grace even in ungracious places. So vast is His passion for this overarching mission that His grace seems almost as if He sacrifices His character of justice, holiness, and righteousness to enter the bar rooms, brawls, and back streets of my ungraciousness and meet me at my point of discovery. So unfathomable is His determination to reveal His grace that it is beyond the constitution and bylaws of the church, the staid and moralistic standards of many saints, and the exhortation of many of our revered and religious elders. But so profound is His grace that it will tolerate the ungraciousness of the world under our fingernails, and the stench of un-grace in the fabric of our lives, in order to convey His Father’s heart.

When God examined His great inventory of options in entering our world, He chose grace, and then embodied that character quality in the baby laid in Bethlehem’s manger. He realized His omniscience would be intimidating, His omnipotence debilitating, and His omnipresence disabling. He knew His love would be disarming. He knew His light would be unapproachable and His justice unflinching. So He chose grace, and humbled Himself to take on human form.

He appeared first in the helplessness of a newborn, the destitution of poverty, the ignominy of a manger, the dishonor of a stable, the shame of illegitimacy, the recognition of robbers and the derision of the king, the scorn of the religious, the herald of being a divisive element, and the object of hated lust by the great dragon, Satan. I doubt that there has ever been a more ungracious moment for grace to find itself. But in such destitution is the prominence God chose for the advent of grace.

Grace in ungracious places is about a God who is not content to sit on His throne while we wallow in the un-grace of the world. Grace in ungracious places is about a Father intent on sharing His life with His children, in all of our foibles, mistakes, and errors of immaturity, in order to celebrate the bond of their family heritage throughout all of time and eternity. Grace is about a Father who determined to run the race, and finish the course, and live inside of us, in order to have the satisfaction of being able to say at the finish line of life, "We did it! Well done! What a great experience we have from which to build our eternal friendship."

Grace is about a Father who is not afraid to get His hands dirty in order to be with us as we shovel our way out of life’s ungracious messes.

Grace is about a divine heart, discontent to be by itself.

Grace is God’s determined effort to share His heart with us…in hopes that we will see, and recognize, and acknowledge His overture, and say, "Oh."

Meditation and Response

Father, your grace is amazing, and the sound of these words is sweet.

But while these sounds are sweet, and I desperately want your grace in my life, I cannot comprehend what I perceive to be the lavish, exuberant, extravagant waste of your heart just to get my attention. I suppose the only chance I have of comprehending the magnitude of your grace is to grasp it each day and examine it under the close scrutiny of my ugracious places.

Father, thank you for extending your grace to me rather than challenging me to rise to the level of grace. Thank you for giving me your grace as a gift instead of asking me to earn it. Thank you for giving me grace to live as opposed to asking me to live up to its standard.

I need your grace, but I need it as it is, not as I have conceived it to be. I need your grace, even though the place I will keep it is rancorous with un-grace. Father, I need your grace to be with me where I live so that I can appreciate who you are and who I am

Father, I need your grace in my ungracious places.

Thanks.

Amen.

Preston Gillham

About the Author

As a co-founder, Preston Gillham led Lifetime for 30 years. Preston is a writer, speaker, and leadership guide. He has authored numerous articles and several books including No Mercy and Battle for the Round Tower. He blogs on “Life and Leadership”. More about Preston, his writings, speaking, and his consulting practice can be located at PrestonGillham.com.