With grace, you just have to learn to let a lot of things go — things you trusted in before that don’t matter anymore.
Yesterday we talked about what was scary about grace, and we found out that there is quite a lot, especially for those who have spent a lot of time in evangelical circles. When you start to think of all the comfort zones and the controls built into Christianity in America, you can see why grace can be very scary. We just scratched the surface.
I used to think that I was right
A lonely candle in the night
And while the heart of the world was breaking
I could not feel the aching
The mantle had passed down to me
This thing was my destiny
And while the world was out there dying
I was in here lying to myself.
Grace upends everything. With grace you lose anything you thought you earned, whether by effort or by pedigree. Grace is hard on Christians. As much as we might say we understand grace, we might get it on a theological level, but practically, we’re still operating as if we are further down the road than most others because of our solid Christian upbringing. Come on now, I grew up in one of the largest, most respected evangelical churches in southern California at the time, and then I graduated from the most prestigious Christian college in the country (me and Billy Graham.) That’s all got to be worth something. And when it comes to ministry, I’m ready. I can skip a few steps. This is all familiar territory to me.
For all the knowledge I had gained
Put me on a higher plain
And I became another
No one was my brother
And then loving message He brought down
Turned into a hollow sound
And then I heard Him calling
And His words sent me falling to my knees
But here’s the scariest part of all. Grace grabs you by the nape of the neck and throws you into the middle of sinful humanity and lets you sink to the bottom where you stay long enough to lose any sense of spiritual entitlement. Grace strips you of anything you thought made you special. Oh, you’re special alright, just not the way you thought you were. You are special in the same way everyone around you is special, because God’s love makes you that way. It’s nothing in you or me that calls forth His love; it all originates from Him. He is love, and He chose to love us long before we could do anything about it. We don’t really understand that love until we have been stripped of everything we thought made us more lovable than anyone else.
And suddenly there was with me
An ocean of humanity
A sea of many faces
In waves of warm embraces
And while I questioned how to judge them all
Who would rise and who would fall
I found myself among them
And it mattered little who was wrong or right
The bottom is really the bottom. You are so low, you are looking up at the lowliest. And from here, actually, everything looks really good. This is humbling, but liberating. You feel a part of something. No longer isolated in the so-called ivory tower of my own making, I am relieved and overjoyed to join others who are simply receiving what we know we cannot earn. For the first time in a long time, I get it.
And then I saw Him lifted up
The wounded one who drank the cup
Of death for all the dying
The end of justifying
And I laid my mantle on the ground
And felt the rain come pouring down
The rain of my religion
Falling down like weeping from the sky
– from the song, “Not the Only One,” by John Fischer