I just read this in a little devotional book and it seemed like it was in all caps it stood out so much:
"At certain times and places, God will build a mysterious wall around us. He will take away all the supports we customarily lean upon, and will remove our ordinary ways of doing things. God will close us off to something divine, completely new and unexpected, and that cannot be understood by examining our previous circumstances. We will be in a place where we do not know what is happening, where God is cutting the cloth of our lives by a new pattern, and thus where He causes us to look to Him."
The last couple of weeks have been sort of spirtually heavy for us. I don't feel that I can make sense of some of it. (Which is partially why I write blogs that are sarcastic and silly - to draw attention away from real feelings.) Certainly some things have gone on that won't be shared on the world wide web - it just wouldn't be appropriate and would cross multiple boundaries ... but suffice it to say we're feeling our brokenness in multiple ways and it has been a bit of a butt-kicking.
So we're plugging along and asking God to help us with the situations and we feel Him gently nudging and guiding and it is good and hard and sometimes confusing.
We heard a sermon at that
This is how he put it:
Mercy is not getting what you deserve.
Grace is getting what you don't deserve.
The example for mercy -
You are speeding. You are going 80mph in a 70mph zone. The cop pulls you over. He says, "You were speeding you know." You say, "Yes. I was. I know." The cop says, "I am only going to give you a warning, have a good day." You deserved a ticket. You did not get one. That's mercy.
The example for grace-
You are speeding. You are going 80mph in a 70mph zone. The cop pulls you over. He says, "You were speeding you know." You say, "Yes. I was. I know." The cop says, "I am going to give you a gift. Here, have $100 and go buy your family some lunch. Have a great day!" You deserved a ticket - you not only didn't get one - you got a gift too. That's grace.
That sermon added to some circumstances of recent weeks set off a chain of events in my head that won't seem to stop. I feel God doing something. I just don't think I know why or what yet. These weird reflections keep happening.
Among dozens of jumbled and confusing thoughts and feelings of conviction I thought about how often I have received grace and mercy as opposed to how often I've actively offered it. Not exactly a balanced picture.
In thinking about the examples of grace and mercy that Pastor Matt at the Stone gave I realized that mercy is usually what we can pull off - that is what we sometimes offer each other -- not grace so much. It seems that we mix the meanings of the two up a lot.
In only two instances can I recall being a part of giving grace to another person and in both of those instances I heard God tell me what to do ... it was not me at all. (God rarely speaks to me in a way I can hear tangibly - as in - so infrequently that I remember every occasion.)
One of the occasions was in early 2005. I was standing at a counter checking out of Target. I heard an audible voice inside my jumbled and confused head and it told me to buy a $50 gift card for a specific person. It made no sense to me. I did not want to buy a gift for that person. It was not that I was mad at that person but I certainly had no reason to drop fifty bucks on him. I tried to shake off the instruction ... I heard again that I should do it. I begrudgingly bought the gift card and did something I never do - I grabbed a pen at the check out and filled in the name of the person right there on the spot. (For no apparent reason.) I picked up my other purchases and walked out of the store where Troy was waiting in the car for me. As I exited the Target store I walked right into the person the gift card was purchased for - my heart raced. I handed it to him and told him that we cared about him. I went on my way. Many months later I learned a bit about where he was in his life at that time and I realized that I was privileged to be a part of God giving this person grace. (Giving him what he did not deserve.) It is five years ago and it still gives me a strange yet creepy yet cool yet freaky feeling.
The other occasion was in 2009 but would be difficult to tell without crossing privacy boundaries, but it was similar. I was on a run and I heard a voice tell me to give gifts to a person I was livid with at the time. It was equally freaky, awesome, scary, and amazing.
I have been on the receiving end of plenty of mercy in my life - and also an amazing amount of His grace. I am getting knocked around a bit this week as I think about how often I say I want to love and be more like Jesus ... and how actually doing it ... actually BEING that kind of love/mercy/grace ... well, that requires so much more of me.