Aug 04

“I don’t like grace…”

NOTE: This post is an update to the original story, which ran last October. The young lady who didn’t like grace is now ready to transition back home. I think you’ll like to hear about the change God has worked in her life!

Last Fall I was attending a luncheon with a few of the girls from the residential program at Intermountain (www.intermountain.org). We had been invited to share a bit of what we have been doing in chapel services and the girls were given the opportunity to share which of the recent series of lessons had the most impact in their lives. We had not rehearsed their responses, and I trusted that if God had really used those lessons to teach them something that they would be able to articulate it to the small group gathered.

The lessons, five in all, were each based upon spiritual truths that common road signs could teach us. Conceptually, the lessons would also feed into the discussions we would have in November and December around the meaning and significance of symbols around the Christmas holiday. But, sometimes in the midst of a pretty straight-forward presentation, the profound breaks through. It did for all of us in attendance at that luncheon last fall, and it was an honor to hear from the heart of one of our children.

I was reviewing the Bible stories in the series and asked the children to hold up the signs and help me explain how they corresponded to the stories. I started with the STOP sign… this sign taught us to “Stop and listen to God.” One young lady helped explain that “Stop and listen to God” is a little like the skill learned in the cottage called “taking seats,” which help children stop and think about what is happening in the present. “How am I feeling? What is my body telling me? How can I slow down and not get caught up in strong emotion (anger, wanting to fight)?” These are the kinds of questions children are encouraged to process when they stop and think. The STOP sign we used in chapel added one more step to that process: Pray and listen to God. The Bible lesson was on Samuel as a little boy and how he heard God’s voice in the night. God called Samuel to follow him, and the children were encouraged to think about how God is calling us, too.

Then, we came to the caution sign for “Grace Ahead.” The girl that held this sign did a wonderful job of recounting the story and lesson behind the sign. We had covered the parable of the unforgiving servant in conjunction with that sign. She explained to the luncheon crowd that “The King had forgiven this guy like a whole bunch, and then he had someone who owed him just a little bit thrown in jail when he couldn’t pay back what he owed. He had been forgiven so much, but he couldn’t forgive anyone.” Then I asked her why she had chosen that particular “GRACE AHEAD” sign to share with the group. She responded, without hesitating, “Because I don’t like grace.”

“I don’t like grace.” Truth be told, as I shared with those gathered, not many of us do like grace—at least not when we are honest with ourselves. We are much more patterned to thinking we need to earn our place in the world and jockey with others for position and power. Since last Fall, this young lady is has come to grips with one of the issues that was really holding her back from having the connection with God and her family that she longed for: she didn’t like grace. She came to us over a year ago feeling she needed to earn what has been freely offered: love, acceptance, and a sense of truly belonging in a family.

Now, as she prepares to go home she is in a much healthier place. The knowledge of God’s grace and love has traveled from her head to her heart. She is much more forgiving of others and herself because she understands that we all need God’s grace. It is nothing short of a miracle that the Lord has changed her heart. I feel so much more confident about her prospect of making healthier choices as she transitions home than I did a year ago.

Will you pray for this young lady as she makes that transition back to her family, her school, and her church? And, perhaps you could pray for many others like her (maybe even yourself?) so they can get to the place where they accept the grace of God as a free gift? Knowing and experiencing grace as a day-to-day reality helps us receive the love of others, enabling us to build strong and healthy relationships.