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?


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