As a Christian who has grown up in the church, this word had become dull. Once, a bright glowing BOOM of a word, it, over time, had lost it's impact on me.
Eugene Peterson talks about how often words get "ruined or desiccated...([he] thinks of 'marriage,' 'love,' 'sin,' and so on)" and as a result "require constant rehabilitation."
How do we rehabilitate words? Words that we thought had power but lie paralyzed in our lives?
We have control of the meaning of words, you know. Try explaining the difference between the words dang-it and damn-it to a child.
"Well, you can say the word dam if it refers to something that involves a beaver and a river but if you say it with an 'n' attached...I know it doesn't change the sound of the word...I know you can't see how the word is spelled when you speak it...I know you don't understand what it means to 'bring condemnation upon something'...That's it, too many questions that I don't have good answers for...DANG-IT! Ugh..."
The meaning of words are shaped within our hearts and minds by the world around us. By the people who say them. By the other words that are wrapped around them. By the tone of voice through which they are spoken and the facial expressions that accompany them. These moments, where words are learned, sometimes assisted by a mother's hand cupping your cheek, while other times emphasized by a clenched jaw and sharp eyebrows, have told us the true and sometimes false meaning behind the words spoken to us.
Oftentimes, somewhere along the way, rich, life-changing, heart bursting words, like Love or Bless or Yes or Spouse or Best or Promise or even Grace, become diluted or destroyed by someone/people in our lives who misuse them. Perhaps they misuse them intentionally. Maybe not. My best guess is that, when a word is misused, the speaker hasn't ever truly understood its meaning in the first place. Someone told them that Love meant Absence, Shame, or Abuse and they believed them. They stored the word deep in their memory banks alongside other words like Run, Fear, Baggage, Weakness and when they pulled Love out on you it dragged these others words with it, reshaping it and redefining it within your own mental dictionary.
I hadn't realized it but something like this had happened within me concerning the meaning of the word Grace. It felt fluffy and pastel. It flopped and grew flimsy. It was shallow and unremarkable. Until one day, one day I found myself thinking, "What is this? What is the word for this? Where has this been and why haven't I been more aware of it?"
Grace- The freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.
Unmerited- Not earned, warranted or deserved; baseless, groundless, unjustified.
Grace has been reshaped in my life by a tiny bundle named Jett. Here is a text message that I sent to a dear friend who was asking about Jett’s bonding with our family:
"…the bonding has been an unbelievable spotlight of God’s grace in our lives. We prepared for hardness. We prepared for a tiny emotionally disrupted/upset child who didn’t choose us or want us but would eventually put up with us because we would keep them constantly awash with our love for them...but did God give us what we were prepared for? Did He look at our legs braced and our shoulders rigid in a stance of readiness/action and say, 'There, you are ready for the storm' and then hand us one more trial to make it through? Nope, He handed us Jett, giggly, wants ME, laugh-filled, smiley-eyed, looks at me with googly eyes, Jett as a handwritten note that says, once again, Sarah, I am your God and I. Love. You. Gah, friend, I am sitting here just crying as I type this text because of the absurdity of it. His love. Gah."
We have a son and he is redefining Grace in our lives. He is showing us what it means to receive a Love that we could never have earned. To have our hearts filled with a Love that we could never repay. He is teaching us that real Grace will make us squirmy. We will find ourselves wanting to justify it, to tip the scales so that things are even and nothing is owed, to hold up a banner that says, "I have merit!!!" But true Grace, God’s love, is and will always be unmerited. For some this will be too heavy, they won't allow it to crush them and prove their true weakness. It is too humbling and their egos won't have it. They will need to continue trying to justify their existence and laboring to prove their value.
But, if we are willing to stop our squirmy-ness for just a moment and allow God's Grace to overshadow what we think our value is, then we can catch these little glimpses of what He thinks our value is.
James 4:6 says that God "gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those humble enough to receive it)."
That means that He will constantly and without end reveal the value that He sees in us if we are willing to be humble enough to receive it. And sometimes, just like I continue to find myself, when I think of my son, we weep at the absurdity of it. We laugh, crushed beneath the understanding of so great a value that our language doesn't have words strong enough to describe it. We just sit and feel it within our bursting/overwhelmed chests. Is that unbearable? Most of the time it is, yes, but it is the most beautiful unbearableness that we encounter in this lifetime and it will drive us to live the most beautiful lives as a result.
Grace is neither weak nor irrelevant.
Grace is not listless or impotent.
Grace is not sickly or ineffectual.
We are coming upon our Jett’s first birthday and his fifth month in our arms. We will sing and squeal and laugh and be ridiculous. We will flat out rejoice, as we celebrate our son and the gift that he is to us. We will revel in our new Grace-crushed lives and hope that we can, in some way, be a part of the redefining of Grace to any our family comes into contact with.
Happy birthday Jett!
(we are the ones who have received the greatest gift)