If you will excuse me, dear reader, I would like to make an addendum to a previous post. I have been thinking a good bit about the law and grace, and the promise of God, and I am continually realising my tendency to move away from the grace of God into a desire to earn His graciousness and approval. Is anybody else in this boat? Wouldn’t you rather work for it?
In the aforementioned post, I talked about how it was a good idea to hush if you have a stinky attitude and don’t have anything nice to say, so that you don’t pass on your grumpymugginness to everyone else. But I’m not sure that’s entirely true. I do think it is a good idea to be thoughtful with your words. It’s wise to be careful about what comes out of your mouth — the things you say really are like the toothpaste that can’t go back in the tube. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be honest about where you are, what you’re experiencing, and if you’re having a hard time.
If you are anything like me, you might retreat a little bit when times are hard, and put on a happy face so that everyone will think you are fine. (It reminds me of that great Volkswagen commercial with that I’m a Great Pretender song in the background. Have you seen it? I loved it.) Anyway, I can really be a pretender sometimes.
If I’m honest, this is a hard season for me. We’ve just moved to a new country. I thought it was going to be easier than this. I forgot that I moved to Scotland with thirty other people and had an instant friendship circle and a common goal. I made friends at the university quickly and easily. And I was single, so life was flexible, and fancy-free. Things are great here. We’re in a beautiful place, and the Lord has made an amazingly smooth path for us. But still, it’s hard. I’ve traded one set of circumstances for another, completely different. And my heart feels strung out — all over the world. I’ve left so many dear friends behind in Scotland. And my family and friends in the States — I continue to miss them, now even more, as with a greater time difference it’s harder to get in touch.
The way all this ties into grace and the law for me is this: Before there was the law, there was grace, and justification by faith. Abraham simply believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Four hundred and thirty years before Moses received those legendary tablets on Mt. Sinai, God made a covenant with Abraham, a promise to bless His descendants, and that through him, all nations would be blessed. So the promise came before the law. And Christ came before I even began to stray from a godly path. Before I could earn God’s love and approval, it was freely given.
What does all that mean? I’ve been reading in Galatians 3 and 4 and here’s what I’m trying to wrap my head around. Grace is available, based on faith, and free. It justifies us by faith, and not by anything we can do. God says His grace is sufficient for us, because His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. So here I am, admittedly a sinner, and I may struggle to rejoice and find contentment in this new season, and if I’m honest, it’s just hard. But the Good News is, God’s grace is available. And while I am weak, and I feel like I’m failing to deflect the fiery darts of self-pity that would have me consumed with disappointment at another Christmas away from my family, and another week feeling like I don’t have any new friends, praise God that His grace is sufficient. It’s okay to be disappointed. It’s okay to struggle to deal with the way things are going when it’s not your way.
Even more, It is good to be honest about where you are. It is good to be honest with God about how you feel. And sometimes, even if it doesn’t look pretty and perfect, it is good to be honest with others, when life just isn’t a cup of sweet tea for you. It may be a good idea to hush, but it may be an even better idea to speak up, to say, “I’m struggling!” or “This ain’t as glamourous as it looks!” or “Help!” So that’s the addendum of the day. I hope to put on my bathing suit and dive into the sea of God’s grace today for a good long swim. Feel free to grab a cap and goggles and join me.