Craig and I ran into an old friend of ours last night at the local sports bar while watching Game 7 of the NBA Finals. It had been awhile since she and I had gotten a chance to catch up and since we had last REALLY talked, many changes had occurred in her life. Changes that seem to be ultimately beneficial for all parties involved, but while in the process were extremely painful, shameful and destructive. As with many little-big towns like the one we live in, I had heard rumors through the grapevine about everything that had happened...but like when dealing with middle school rumors, I believed only half of what I heard. I figured that if she wanted me to know the story, she would fill me in but I owed her a listening ear and an unbiased heart.
As we sat at the table and cheered (and then groaned) our way through the basketball game, my friend turned to me and said something to the effect of "I thought you were disappointed in me or mad at me for what happened." I nearly spit out my beer. "Why on Earth would I be upset with you? You don't owe me an explanation or an apology. That's between you and God...your forgiveness and reconciliation has nothing to do with me." She immediately relaxed, smiled and mentioned that giving grace was one of her favorite qualities about me. I thanked her and tried to brush off her compliment with a remark about my own checkered and wildly sinful past while we refocused on the game.
But my thoughts kept churning through the rest of the evening.
Grace. I've been chewing on that word ever since Natalie was born. Our children must have boundaries, rules and expectations to live by in order to become productive members of society. But in order to be a compassionate and considerate person....they must also have a healthy dose of grace extended to them from the people who love them the most.
But I think it's such a misunderstood word. Grace is not a free pass or revoking consequences. It is not blindly loving or wearing rose-colored glasses. Extending grace doesn't mean condoning or supporting the negative behavior but it does mean acknowledging the frailty of the human condition, the fact that we are all sinners while providing an example of Jesus' most important command...love one another.
The moment I extended grace to my old friend and shook my head at her concerns of my disapproval, I saw her spirit lift and her shoulders perk. I wasn't another person condemning her or brandishing her with the scarlet letter. I was another sinner struggling through my own misgivings and missteps saying "I will love you through this."
And why should we extend grace to one another? Because it is the greatest gift that God gives to us everyday as we trip, stumble and fall along the path we are trying to walk with Jesus. Every day as I speak too harshly and lose patience with Natalie, get frustrated and snap at my husband or envy the owner of the brand new Lexus down the street....God provides me with grace and forgiveness. If I want to truly be an example of how I was made in His image, I must afford those around me the same grace and forgiveness that He provides me.
And that is what I think we are called to do....not discourage one another from living a Christ-filled life by judgment and condemnation, but instead help our friends along the treacherous path of life through grace and encouragement.