The moral of the story is that grace will chase you down. Sometimes grace will hold you down, restraining you until you’ve come to your senses, and sometimes grace will quietly wait for you to come around on your own. Sometimes grace is gentle and kind and of a quieter reserve of strength. And sometimes grace will surprise you in the dark, holding a baseball bat, ready to do battle for you.
I’ve bookended this past week with two spectacular movies, neither of which having much to do with the other at first glance: Enough Said and Short Term 12. As I’ve reflected on these films and let their truths resonate with me, it has become increasingly clear to me that in a similar vein of a Flannery O’Connor short story, they are about characters that experience the intersection of grace in their otherwise troubled, confusing, overwhelming, underwhelming, excruciating, mundane lives. So I’ve been thinking a lot about grace in the last few days.
I don’t know about you, but I like my grace a little rough around the edges. Oftentimes this seems truer to me than the easily explained, easily swallowed version of grace. I am, after all, a child of this generation, and I don’t tend to like (let alone trust) anything that comes too easily, even if it’s good for me. Yet, sometimes it’s the gentleness of grace that in the final analysis makes me shut up and listen and leaves me beyond myself.
PG grace is the kind that only makes us aware that it’s a “free gift.” Forget PG: that’s the Sunday School answer. And of course the problem with this answer is not in calling it a free gift, because for it to be received as genuine, honest-to-goodness grace, the receiver can’t have anything to offer in return. The problem is that it teaches us to assume that because the gift is free, it must not have cost anything. And frankly, my dear, this just isn’t the case. Because grace always—hear me: ALWAYS—costs something. Now, I’m not saying that grace has to be earned or repaid. But it is a naïve and silly frame of mind to think that for the one extending grace, grace has not required great personal cost, a death of sorts.
Grace is a slaying of the darkness, a naming of the unnamed.
Ultimately grace makes you choose. Timshel. Thou mayest. Will you choose to lean into grace and let it demand of you what it will, or won’t you. Because just as grace costs something of the one extending, it also costs something of the one to whom it is extended.
Whatever else can be said of grace—whether it’s towards kids that no one on the outside quite knows what to with or towards a middle-aged woman that doesn’t quite know what to do with herself—grace doesn’t leave you the same way it finds you.
The choice of grace, then, the cost, is in deciding not to live out of our woundedness, but out of our belovedness.
“There is little or no neutral territory between the land of the blessed and the land of the cursed. You have to choose where it is that you want to live, and that choice is one that you have to keep making from moment to moment.” (Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved)