Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Have You Ever Given Grace The Stiff Arm?

When we're grumpy, we want other people to pay. Have you seen this? Have you seen other people do this? Have you noticed you doing this? Why do we do this?

Let's say you've had a bad day. You've paid a greater emotional or physical or relational or vocational or financial cost than you wanted or were prepared to pay. You're feeling emotionally bankrupt and you resent it. What do you do with these emotions? 

Sometimes we try to make the happy or at least the less malcontent people around us pay.
“Give me some of that emotional capital!”
We do it not so much so that we can be happier, but so that they will be less so. We want them to feel a little of the impoverishment we feel. Or, we at least want others around us to know how much we’ve had to pay. They should know how much emotional capital has been required of us. They should feel sorry for us. They should not ignore our sacrifice. Our sacrifice ought to be noticed and appreciated. (Can I get a witness?)

And yet, when those people around us actually respond, how often do we resent their paltry sums offered in the currency of compassion or kindness? Their compassionate inquiry appears patronizing. Their kind gesture of encouragement or service we rebuff and dismiss. We want more.

Or, when we are grumpy, we want others to prop us up. And then they try, and we slap their supportive hand. “What are you saying?! I’m not your charity case! I’m fine!”

Now here’s the interesting thing I noticed on my way home from work one day about 6 months ago (it obviously takes me a little while to get around to writing these things up). I was feeling overworked and overwhelmed. I was tired of having to do all that I was having to do. I wanted to mope. I wanted to come in the door and subtly (or not so subtly) show it. Why? So I would receive some pity and props.

I knew this was wrong. My family didn’t need this from me. They each have their own loads and burdens. I don’t say this in some stoic, stiff upper lip, don’t-ever-show-you’re-struggling sort of way. I say it in the sense that husband and fathers ought to strongly depend on the strong grace of God and be strong in the grace of the Lord Jesus so that they can bless their wives and children with strong and steady and reliable and proactive and sacrificial and joyful love. Anyway…

I knew I should preach the gospel to myself and rehearse the blessings and promises that are mine in Christ. I knew God could meet me right there in the car and enable me to walk through the door with joy and contentment. I even knew that God was beginning to do so as I prayed for it!

And then I found myself resisting his grace! I didn’t want to yield my claim to pity. If I came in happy, then they might not realize all I’ve had to deal with today. They might think I paid no cost. They might not pity or prop me at all. What pathetic pride. What prideful self-pity.

So, I found myself teetering between a desire for the consolation and encouragement of God and a desire to resist that grace in favor of my family’s pity and props. What?! What am I doing resisting grace?!

"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). True. True. True. And there is a corollary. The proud oppose the grace of God, but the humble welcome it.

If you can't relate to what I'm saying, just pray for your foolish pastor who needs to grow up and always humbly welcome the grace God gives.

If you can relate, let's forsake all our foolish and prideful resistance to grace. We do NOT want to be grace-resistant, grace-repelling people! We want, we need! to be grace-welcoming, grace-receiving, grace-attracting people. Grace repelling people are repulsive. Grace attracting people are attractive.

Lord, give us more grace! Make it always irresistible to us. In Jesus' name, Amen.

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousMay 30, 2013

    Chris, this was really helpful for me today. Thank you for your honesty about yourself and for putting in the time to write this out!

    May we all be people happy to receive God's grace, happy to have it all be about Him all the time.