"When we fail we cut the string. Then God ties it up again,
making a knot and thereby bringing us a little closer to Him.
Again and again our failures cut the string, and with each
additional knot God keeps drawing us closer and closer."
(Sharon A. Hersh)
I appreciate having the opportunity to read my daughter's blog (Hippie at Heart at http://candacephippieatheart.wordpress.com/?blogsub=confirming#subscribe-blog) as it gives me a little insight into the person she is growing into in her adulthood. I especially appreciated her last blog on Blogger before she switched over to Word Press. It was about her frustrations with her older brother who lives in Colorado and we affectionately refer to as the "Prodigal"--as in Prodigal Son. Once you have heard his story you understand the moniker. To say he has tested the patience and love of his parents and family is probably an understatement . . . but we still love him. That is where our daughter is having difficulties . . . it is difficult to love someone who seems to compile hurt after hurt on others who love him or her.
The daughter is amazed at the fact that her parents--the wife and I--keep welcoming him back and helping him out whenever he gets himself into a bind. Now I want everyone to understand that for the most part we do not rescue our oldest child--no, he gets to face the consequences of his actions all on his own and own up to them whether they are good or bad. We do not have a co-dependent relationship with our son. At the same time we do care about him very much and because we do we attempt to help him whenever we can when he is in a bind. Long ago I swore that I would never let any of my children go hungry or have to sleep out on the streets. Because of that the wife and I have sent him money from time to time to keep him fed and to enable him to have a roof over his head. We do this no matter how many times he has hurt us. The daughter cannot understand this and I can understand how and why she feels that way.
To say that the Prodigal has hurt us in the past few years is an understatement and he would tell you the same. He has missed countless family gatherings--missed being in his sister's wedding (a major sin) while having been in countless friends' weddings--missed holiday gatherings--missed his little brother's graduation. Each and every time he had an excuse or a reason as to why--and for the most part they were legitimate reasons. Mostly it had to do with poor choices he made and the consequences he had to face. Surprisingly, or not, he has been contrite each and every time--apologized--and went on his merry way. His has not been an easy life, but when offered the choice it was the choice that he made--no one to blame except himself. And, this infuriates his sister to no end. Because it does, she does not understand how her parents can keep letting him back in and loving him unconditionally.
"How we fall into grace. You can't work or earn
your way into it. You just fall. It lies below,
it lies beyond. It comes to you, unbidden."
I can't say that I understand grace. As a minister I speak about grace a lot--it is a cornerstone in the theological dialogue for those of us who proclaim ourselves to be followers of Jesus Christ; but . . . it doesn't mean I understand grace. Grace means so many things: "elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action; a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment; favor or goodwill; a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior; and, mercy; clemency; pardon." But for this conversation the grace I refer to is that which is undeserving and given freely--that is the sort of grace that is difficult to understand. That is the sort of grace that Jesus bestowed upon humanity. That is the sort of grace that the wife and I attempt to give to our oldest child. He never expects it . . . he never deserves it . . . but we give it to him time after time, after time. The daughter does not understand how this is possible . . .
. . . and neither do I. In all honesty
What I do understand is that our oldest child--the Prodigal--is our flesh and blood. He is the combined effort of the wife and I. Within him is a part of each of us and because of that there is a connection that can never be severed no matter how hard any of us tries. We are bound to one another. Because of that it is difficult to sit back and watch a child of your own go forth and make poor choices, to get in trouble, and to dig a hole that is almost too much to climb out of. It is difficult to watch someone throw one's life away. Difficult to see someone you love suffer and go hungry. Difficult to listen to them cry. Difficult to know that they hurt. True, it may be because of his own choices, but it is still difficult.
He makes no excuses and accepts responsibility for his actions--even though it often takes him a little while to step up to the plate and clean up his messes. He just doesn't always take responsibility as quickly as we hope, nor does he always clean the messes up as fast as we think they should be. But he tries. Through his tears we often hear his remorse for the hurt he has caused, but more importantly we hear his amazement in that his parents keep welcoming him back time after time. He knows that he does not deserve it, but we keep opening the door and inviting him in. The question becomes, how many times do you play with matches, get burned, and learn your lesson that you should quit playing with matches? Apparently, with grace, it is a million times a million. That is what makes grace so hard to understand. The Prodigal does not deserve it, but he gets it because we love him.
"I wish grace and healing were more abracadabra kind of things.
Also, that delicate silver bells would ring to announce grace's
arrival. But no, it's clog and slog and scootch, on the floor,
in the silence, in the dark."
I have known grace and each time I encountered it I stood in awe of it. I think we all have. And, because we have I think we have all tried to understand the presence of grace in our lives because none of us felt we were worthy of it. Yet there it was . . . slapping us in the face . . . and saving us. Why? Who knows? In this day and age, grace is not valued highly and is often replaced with vengeance and judgment. Second chances are begrudgingly given and heaven help the person who screws up more than once. So it is when grace enters our lives--we are shocked, surprised, and amazed that such love can be showered upon any of us because we know we did not deserve it. The Prodigal probably doesn't deserve it, but too bad--he is getting it anyways. He is getting it because we love him and love desires the best for the object that is loved. Even when the object is a "prodigal".
I don't understand it, but it sure seems like there has been a lot of grace floating around lately in my life and the lives of those I love. As Anne Lamott says, it sure would be nice if grace let us know when it was coming. But, then it wouldn't be grace would it?