Scripture: Matthew 5:44-46
At the heart of my struggles with gratitude is my reflexive belief that I have to prove I am worthy. Worthy of acceptance. Worthy of your time. Worthy of a place. Heck, if I am really good perhaps I can manage to prove I am worthy of belonging.
I’m not even sure where exactly I picked up this profoundly formative lie that I’ve built 32 years of life on, but somewhere early on I figured out that I needed to keep up my end of the bargain if I were going to be loved and accepted.
It’s the automatic soundtrack that plays in the background of my days.
I think this is why it’s so important to remember that before there was a curse there was a blessing.
That before we are fallen, we are very good.
That our deepest and truest identity is that of beloved, even if it’s a challenge to believe on most days.
“We have made grace contingent on a list of right thoughts, right actions and conditions,” writes Alia Joy, “Grace is not grace when we charge our neighbor a great debt to earn it.”
I pile up my most beloved criticisms in an attempt to distract from the fact that most of the time I’m still trying to prove I am worthy, prove that I am enough. If I can just make the pile big enough, maybe it will block the lie of my faultiness reverberating through life.
If I can just tell you how bad this person or this thing, this belief or this group is…then I can’t help but look better.
These piles of criticisms, constructed to prop myself up also become walls that shut others out. I cannot love my neighbor with a pile of my criticisms between us.
Our imaginations are captured by the idea of transactions. Scales must be balanced. Dinner invitations returned. You answer my correct opinion with a worthwhile one of your own. If not, well, then I will only take down my wall of criticisms when this person proves they are worthy of my grace.
As though grace were mine to give.
It is striking to me though that grace is annoyingly universal and unconcerned with how we come to meet it or where we go from there. Such profound grace should stop us in our tracks. Surely it should fix our eyes and stir up our hearts. But if we leave unchanged, grace goes right on being grace, waiting for us to notice.
I often go through life at a pace far too fast to notice every day graces. When I am asked to slow down, usually I take it as an opportunity to keep adding to my pile of criticisms. But what if we chose the moments of forced or chosen slowness to behold the wonder and grace sneaking into every moment, instead of continuing to try to balance scales and prop ourselves up on faulty criticisms that assume neither we nor our neighbor is worthy of love?
That the sun rises, and the birds sing, and the flowers poke their heads up through frozen ground for both those we deem worthy and those we despise. Because at the end of the day, we are not the arbiters of grace, but the recipients and the observers thereof.
Today whether it’s by choice or not, practice going about your day a bit slower. Notice the warmth of the sun or the coolness of the rain. Pay attention to the sidewalks, does the concrete have a shimmer to it? Call to mind that all of this is a gift, not to be owned but to be received, observed, and shared. That it is not yours to defend or protect, but you do get to take part and care for.
The sun rises on both the evil and the good, which is reassuring as most days I would assign myself to both camps before my coffee gets cold. And if that good news is true for me, it’s true for you too, and for the person whom you can’t imagine it extends to, and to everyone in between.
Amazing grace, annoyingly so.
And I need to take time if I am going to even begin to understand it.