Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
While I was researching, pondering, and crafting my “grace versus works” essay, a scrap of advice I read on some online relationship recovery forum directed to a woman experiencing an uncustomary glitch in her relationship with her grown daughter came to my attention and prompted this follow-up post.
The woman and her daughter had run into some trouble over a family issue via conversations where both old and new misunderstandings emerged, old and new hurts manifested.
There were words.
And fresh wounds.
The mother sought counsel and when I read one of the responses to her I immediately knew the advice would forever for me be one of those statements that offers hope to us all should we be in similar circumstances.
The comment, copied below, says a lot about certain temporal relationships but also, in my view, about our relationship with God.
Your love for her is as the air she breathes. She can abuse it in safety.
The Balm of Grace
If you think about it, we are only “safe” to open our wounds, as it were, when we know we we are in a relationship with someone with whom there is a track record of acceptance, not just when things are going well with them but also when things aren’t.
In other words, we know that if from some place of hurt, misunderstanding, or opposing opinion, we even go so far as to lash out in some way, that person will not abandon us but will work with us to resolve the matter, however painful and challenging at the moment, and for however long it may take.
There is a certain “human grace,” so to speak, manifest there, where an already-established, underlying current of unconditional love enables the ebb and flow of the relationship to continue past the current snag.
In that freedom, each one knows in some “transcendent knower” that any temporary crisis will not stop the power of the long-term momentum, though it may seem tenuous at times.
I couldn’t help but think how this is somewhat like our relationship with God.
Not the god of conditional, variable, works-based, “pay to play” religious systems but the God of all creation Whose love for us is the same “yesterday, today, and forever.”
Whose love for us is not contingent upon Sunday-best behavior or words said in a certain way at a certain time in a certain place with certain people. Only.
Whose love for us is not only as “the air we breathe,” but, literally is the air we breathe, the waters we ford, the manna we eat–ever present, ever sensate, ever reminding…
Whose love for us metaphorically and literally stepped through the seam separating heaven and earth, donned the flesh (He crafted for us) to use as the only sufficient “purchase price” for the issue of His love–you and me–so that we, too, can pass through that seam in reverse to enter heaven at the end of our days.
Should we so choose (free will being another of His provisions).
As put in John’s Gospel:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)
God as in: theós–“the supreme being who owns and sustains all things.”
Loved as in: agapaó–“the benevolence which God, in providing salvation for men, has exhibited by sending his Son to them and giving him up to death…”
Gave as in: didómi–“to give one to some one to care for his interests.”
Believes as in: pisteuó–“the faith by which a man embraces Jesus, i. e. ‘a conviction, full of joyful trust, that Jesus is the Messiah — the divinely appointed author of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God…'”
Perish as in: apollumi–“to incur the loss of true or eternal life; to be delivered up to eternal misery…”
Eternal as in: aiónios–“everlasting”
Life as in: zóé–“a life active and vigorous, devoted to God, blessed, the portion even in this world of those who put their trust in Christ, but after the resurrection to be consummated by new accessions (among them a more perfect body), and to last forever.”
In other words: God’s grace provided all the parts of our relationship recovery with Him, so to speak.
Whereas when some human relationship crisis occurs and people choose to operate in their best knowledge of unconditional love, which is not going to be perfect, though it’s powerful, God provided that kind of love for us even before any relationship crisis, before any wounding, discord, rejection or glitch–between us and Him. Indeed, even before we knew anything about Him and His love for us.
As they say in the Midwest, where I come from: God had His ducks in a row long before we entered the scene; He had already taken preventative measures.
Or as put this way in Romans 5:8 (with emphasis added):
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
In other words, whereas mending temporal relationships takes wisdom on both sides now–and likely again–prompted by the distress of the moment–mending the eternal relationship, so to speak, took one side, as it were: God the Father, though Another (God the Son, Jesus) on the one-time cross (the scene of the “payment,” One Life–His life–for all who choose to put faith in Him) for all time.
(This is the best, most incredible part) because…
This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4, ESV)…
…no matter the pain, wounds, rejection, and/or distress we cause Him—or the people in our lives.
Human Grace; Divine Grace
We choose to work through our relationships with our loved ones because, well, we love them–more each day. That’s “human grace” at work.
God, through His brand of love, enables unconditional grace for all of us, for eternity, if we choose to believe this*, “worked” entirely by Him through His Son, Jesus Christ.
And in my view, when once this is truly understood, it becomes an irresistable offer–and as available, you might say, as the air we breathe…
Don’t settle for less.
With that, I pray that God’s grace, bequeathed in His love, be with (beneath, above, within, and surrounding) you today.
And that you will know it.
*Haven’t yet decided?
Who knows, this might be The Day…your day to metaphorically (for now) step through that seam…
Here’s a commentary on how.