I was blessed today to have not one but two opportunities to sit down and talk with friends. Although we all live in the same town, it had been awhile since I had actually visited with any of them. Some catching up was definitely in order. Although the hours spent talking completely exhausted my energy as well as my vocal chords, I have spent the afternoon reflecting on those conversations. There was a common thread, a small piece, woven through both conversations and it is that one thread that has occupied my mind since returning home.
The thread was grace.
Grace: the act of getting what we don’t deserve. In Christian circles, the word is used to refer to the free and unmerited–unearned–favor of God. God’s grace saved me. I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t, nor can I, do anything to earn it. It is not a loan I need to pay back to God. I could never pay it back no matter how much I tried. Because God extends grace to me, I should be quick to extend grace to others. After all, God gave to me with no strings attached.
So what does grace have to do with my conversations today?
Life in this world is often not easy. One can wake up in the morning, refreshed after a good night’s sleep and ready to face the day. Sometimes, one goes through the day with little to no opposition–the lines at the grocery store were short, the cashier was friendly, hubby filled the gas tank last time the car was driven, the roads are dry and traffic is light. Other times, even though the beginning of the day is exactly the same–refreshed and ready–the day does not go as planned. Perhaps it starts to snow and the roads become slippery, forcing you to slow down. That makes you late for an appointment. The gas tank is on E because hubby wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want to stand out in the cold to put gas in the car. The grocery store is packed because it is precipitating outside and everyone is stocking up on essentials. When you finally do get to the cash register, the cashier growls at you and all you can muster is a growl back at her. We’ve all had days like both described above. Not everyday can be sunshine and roses but some days those are enjoyed. Have you ever stopped to think, though, that on a day that your world is of the sunny and rosy variety, that cashier’s day may have been one of clouds and storms? We are quick to assume that others around us are feeling as we are when, in reality, that is not always the case. One of my friends this morning said she keeps coming back to that word, grace. Give others grace for you don’t know what may be going on in their world.
As I reflected on that, I wondered how often I had jumped to a conclusion that wasn’t true. Maybe that person from church didn’t stop to chat with me because their mind was full of difficult things. I may walk away muttering something along the lines of “Well, I guess they don’t like me,” or “Well. Two can play that game. I just won’t talk to her Sunday.” Instead of extending grace, I hoard it and then get offended when it is not extended to me. The point was reinforced with another conversation I had today as I was recalling how people treated someone I love when they had no idea what that loved one was going through at the time. I know we are supposed to have the joy of the Lord even in tough times, but, face it, sometimes our human-ness gets in the way and we wallow in our circumstances or our worry. Maybe it goes even deeper than that. Perhaps there is a root of bitterness or unforgiveness that only God can heal and that person is working through that difficult healing process–and you know nothing about it at all. One of my favorite songs starts with the line, “Everybody’s got a story to tell, Everybody’s got a wound to be healed”. No one skates through life unscathed. We all need grace–God’s grace as well as grace from those who travel the journey of life with us.
Next time you find that your smile is being met with a scowl, extend grace. Say a kind word anyway…knowing you most likely won’t get one in return. You don’t know what someone is dealing with. Remember that you may not know the whole story.