Grace is the simple message that our failures are not more powerful than God’s ability to bring beauty out of the madness of our sin.
This is good news because we are inconsistent at best.
The reality of our inconsistency leads to an important question: Why does God love us?
The answer is not that we try hard to impress him or that we are particularly impressive to him. The answer is that grace is part of God’s character.
To make sense of God’s grace, consider Jesus’ famous story about the prodigal son.
The prodigal son was a big failure. He took his dad’s money, left home and dishonored the family. The prodigal son had no intention of changing his life, but then a crisis hit and he ran out of cash. So he swallowed his pride and started the long journey back to his dad.
As the son heads home, questions hang in the air. How will the dad respond? Will he make his son crawl home on his knees? Will he demand his son repay what was wasted? Will he add condemnation to shame?
The answer to these questions is an emphatic no. Instead the father races out to meet his son. He embraces him. He blesses him. Then he throws a huge party in his son’s honor like the boy is a war hero returned from a great battle.
This by the way is how God responds to us. He races out to meet us. He is eager to forgive and restore us. So much so that he sent Jesus to save us. In other words, while we were busy planning our “I’m not worthy” speech, God was busy planning our welcome home party.
So how do we respond? We come home to the Father and we receive grace upon grace. We let mercy define us. We release shame as God’s love washes over us. Then we confidently stand with our Father and we wait to compassionately welcome home his other sons and daughters.
Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese captures a grace shaped life:
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
May our lives and our relationships always be shaped by God’s extravagant grace!