Monday, February 11, 2013

To be a Gracer



A friend of mine wrote a rather controversial blog post last week. She's been raked over the coals for it. Christian blogs have picked it and her apart mercilessly, mocking her theology and her experience in equal measure. Those who claim to be Christ followers have called her ugly names, including that one that makes all women step back like we've been slapped: slut. Yes, they flung that word casually yet viciously at their (redeemed, forgiven, under-no-condemnation-in-Christ-Jesus) sister in Christ.

We all know that 'sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me' is the biggest lie ever told. I will confess right now that a nasty comment on this blog can ruin my entire day. It's stupid, it's insecurity, it's pride, it's pain, it's flat-out sinful for me to care so much what other people, especially complete strangers, think. It's reality that I still do.

She feels the same. And as a group of fellow bloggers consoled her, I wrote the words that they have written to me in the past: Haters gonna hate. For some reason this phrase always brings me comfort. It's a magical phrase that takes the focus off my navel gazing and reminds me that I am in no way responsible nor in control for the actions of others. Haters gonna hate. Ain't a thing I can do about the haters so I might as well let it go. "I am not the jerk-whisperer" - another line I console myself with.

But immediately after I wrote Haters gonna hate line I added an addendum: Gracers gonna grace.

Haters gonna hate.
Gracers gonna grace.
Gracers gonna grace. 

I grew up Methodist so the first time I ever heard of the practice of "giving up something for Lent" was when I entered Catholic high school. Each year at the lunch table, we would discuss at length what we were giving up. I still remember a friend announcing over her cheese doodles, "I'm giving up sex with my boyfriend for Lent," and thinking to myself, "Um, I'm not Catholic, but I don't think you're doing it right..."  The purpose of giving up for Lent is sacrifice, to deny oneself of something - usually something innocuous, but treasured - in order to remind ourselves of the ultimate sacrifice that Christ gave for us. To prepare our hearts for Easter.

It's also a great time to break a bad habit. The accountability is higher. 

For forty days the cafeteria only served fish on Fridays, another Lent tradition. Lent was kicked off on Ash Wednesday, when our classes were on a mass schedule so that the priests could mark each of us, claiming, "Remember, Missy, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return."  I always saw beauty in the image of quiet teenagers in plaid skirts or basketball uniforms and my teachers with black ash crosses unashamedly on our foreheads. Marked. United in humility. It was truly a Holy Day.  

I've held onto the practice of receiving the distribution of ashes at any church I can find and 'giving something up'  and have been glad to see the ancient practice spread among Protestant circles. There is great joy on Easter Sunday in knowing both that He is Risen and whatever was denied is now permitted, just as the communion with the Father that was once denied, is now permitted through the resurrection of Christ. Over the past thirty years I've given up meat, Diet Coke, gummy bears (that was a hard one for a 15 year old) and computer solitaire. The harder ones are the actions: exercise, going to bed on time, reading my bible every night, spending less time online. I always fail. I always try. For forty days.

Last night I asked Walker what I should give up for Lent. He joked, "I think you should give up giving up stuff for Lent for Lent." I couldn't think of anything. We are leaving for Ethiopia on Saturday, where I will have little control of my diet for a week. And then we will hopefully have meals delivered as well, so a food item is not a very good choice. I thought of giving up facebook but rejected it because I must post photos of our new daughter on there. TV? Maybe, but the timing is not good since I know I will be exhausted and homebound once we return. TV isn't a big addiction for me anyway. I fell asleep last night not having made a decision.

This morning, when I typed the response to my wounded friend, I realized it.

Gracers gonna grace.  

I'm giving up not-being-a-gracer for Lent.

Dispensing grace to others is NOT my default. I am by nature a judgmental, critical, sarcastic, opinionated person. Nor was I raised in a grace-filled family. It was very, very, very difficult for me to comprehend and then grasp the extravagant grace that Christ offers to me, a sinner, a judger, a woman-at-the-well, a former slut, a hypocrite, a child of God, a treasured possession, an heiress, a new creation. I am still in awe of it. In beautiful, holy awe that flirts with disbelief that my sins are no longer held against me, neither the ones I committed years ago nor the ones I committed five minutes ago. It's not that I struggle with the truth anymore - it's just that I forget it.

And when I forget, my default, my sin nature, reigns. My grace hides itself to my husband, my children, my neighbors, the internet. I'm pretty stinking wretched

I've prayed for God to make me a gracer for years. And He has, some. I am better than I was. My general, global philosophy in life is one of grace. But in the daily? In the dealings with husbands who neglect the overflowing kitchen trash or children who dawdle in the morning? I have so far to go.

Or people on the internet with bad theology who misrepresent Christ? Or who leave comments on this blog stating that an unborn baby is less human than a dog? I have so, so far to go.

But I have the Holy Spirit, whose delight is to transform me more into the image of Christ, Christ who knew the Truth, who never compromised the Truth, who spoke the truth, who was the Truth, but who was the ultimate, perfected Gracer.

Haters gonna hate.
Judgers gonna judge.
Criticizers gonna criticize.
Hypocrites gonna forget.
Opinionators gonna pontificate.
PMSers gonna be irate.
Impatient moms gonna impatiate.
Ungrateful wives gonna grate.
Gracers gonna grace. 

Which will I be?

Lent begins this Wednesday.
I have some ideas. Would you like to join me?






22 comments:

  1. I think this is a marvelous idea. Sometimes, showing grace to others is hard for me. I'll join you.

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  2. Awesome. Please tell your blogger friend that I love her, and that I'm glad she is doing what she is doing. I usually try to do a "DO SOMETHING" thing for Lent. Not a giving up thing, because one year I gave up Diet Coke and that nearly resulted in a felony conviction. I'd love to read her post if you'd like to share, so I can show grace, too! We're usually pretty much alike, so I doubt I'd read her and think anything besides, "Hm.", unless I wholeheartedly agreed with her, and in which case, I'd think, "AMEN!".

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  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Lent. This year will be my first time observing Lent. I've been thinking for the last week what to give up? I selfishly want to grow closer to God during this time "get" something from the experience. I began The Plan and so food isn't really an option or at least a good one. My heart is leaning on complaining and venting. This will be really difficult for me and I'm hoping will cultivate a heart change at the same time. I wasn't sure if this would be a good choice because it's really a sin that I'm giving up and won't want it back or I should say shouldn't want it back at the end of 40 days. I'm glad to see what you wrote today! I love what you have shared about Grace and giving it more freely, not an easy thing to do! Thanks!

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  4. This is off-topic, but I have to tell you that every time I hear the song "So Far to Find You" by Casting Crowns, I think of you and your sweet Bethlehem!

    I am pretty sure this post is going to say "Jay" wrote it, but actually I'm Jay's wife Sally. Don't know how to change it to my name! ;)

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  5. Love this -- our family always sacrifices something together, and we usually choose to do something on our own too. It makes the season before Easter set apart in a Christ-focused way. I'm giving up chocolate, which has been an adoption-wait coping strategy!!!

    And I just loved your friend's blog post. I lead a ministry to women who work in our city's s*x industry, and they know that many Christians hate them and think they are beyond redemption. We have GOT to get better at telling people that NO ONE is beyond the reach of Christ.
    Nancy

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  6. This one was a big encouragement for me. Thank you for bringing this to the forefront of my mind.

    I'm sorry your friend has been hurt. It is amazing what Christians will say about another Christian. Absolutely amazing.

    Oh, and I can't believe it is almost time to go get your girl! SO happy for y'all!

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  7. Great idea, Missy. And I love you for the word "impatiate."

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  8. I want to thank the blogger which I believe you speak of, along with several other brave women who courageously opened a conversation that needed to be opened, they have challenged me in a way that will never know and awakened deep seeded issues and insecurities that I have been denying for years.

    Thank you and women like these for speaking truth and extending grace.

    I have been blessed by a church (a southern Baptist one at that) that observes Ash Wednesday and Lent, it is a beautiful time of preparation of the celebration of our Risen Lord.

    Great resources that helped me reflect on the importance of Lent and Ash Wednesday:
    http://mysonginthenight.com/2012/03/09/should-christians-observe-lent-since-it-focuses-on-sin-repentance/

    http://mikedcosper.com/2012/02/22/ash-wednesday-criticism-and-the-fear-of-death/

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  9. If the controversial post is the one I think it is, I loved it. There might have been a time when it would've made me really uncomfortable, so I might have criticized it or ignored it to protect my own insecure self, but I'm on a journey of the heart instead of a journey of the head these days, and it's made me much more tender and grateful for posts like that one. Grace for Lent. I like that.

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  10. Yes, I need to join in for lent. Gracers gonna grace needs to be written on my mirrors.

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  11. I love you, Missy - and thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

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  12. I'm in! This has been on my heart this week. I was so convicted last week after reading "those" comments to your Kaylee Anthony repost. I had written a very eloquent (and not so Christ-like) reply to a certain commenter. After posting it I was crushed by shame. Shame on me for forgetting who our real enemy is. Shame on me for not shining like a light in the darkness. Shame on me for not loving and praying for a lost woman on the other side of the world. I was lacking mightily in grace. Needless to say, I deleted my comment.

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    1. And I didn't think your comment was bad at all :)

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  13. In the UK I think all denominations have an awareness of Lent. I've grown up with it. Funnily enough, I'm not giving anything up this year, except being harsh on myself, which is almost the opposite of what we maybe expect Lent to be. I'm reading a book called The Little Way of Lent: daily meditations in the spirit of Therese of Lisieux (I started early lol!).

    As for grace - yes! I am the biggest sinner... and hallelujah! I know how wonderfully forgiven I am! How can any one of us think we are any better than any other? Are there some who don't sin? Grace is so beautiful.

    I have to go because I have a friend coming who has just lost her father and is imminently facing a transplant and I feel so small and inadequate yet I know His grace will give silly little me all the words that I need. I hope we are all sisters in grace as we are sisters in Christ. Lovely, lovely post, Missy. Thank you :-)

    Sandy

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  14. Hee, Missy, your little list at the bottom is like a rap :-) I like it. It reminds me of that song "Where Is the Love?" which had these lines:

    when you hate then you're bound to get irate, yeah
    Madness is what you demonstrate
    And that's exactly how anger works and operates
    Man, you gotta have love just to set it straight
    Take control of your mind and meditate
    Let your soul gravitate to the love, y'all, y'all


    It's not explicitly Christian, but I think the message is in line with Jesus's.

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  15. I'd love to read this post that has so many up in arms. Would you be willing to share the site?

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  16. I'm so glad I haven't read any of the haters responding to that particular post. Because the writer wrote everything I wanted to say and needed to hear. I've re-read it several times. I hold her words very close to my heart. It liberated this sinner and reminded me that I am redeemed. I'm not even gonna go looking for the haters because what God did through me and her post was so sacred.

    Regarding what you should give up for Lent, I was thinking sleep and showers. Since, you know, new baby and all. But the grace thing is so much holier. Go with the grace thing.

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  17. I have just begun thinking about this. My church has never observed Lent, but I find myself wondering about it more and more. If I were to give something up, it would almost have to be Facebook and the time I waste on the computer.

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  18. Shared your poem on my FB...gave you credit! Awesomeness. The comments on that post (that made me bawl like a baby)...made me want to scream a little bit...but...sigh...your poem helped!

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