I've been thinking about grace ever since I heard a recent convert to my church read Ephesians 2:8 at Ward Conference in January. If you are unfamiliar with NPR's "This I Believe", the weekly program is basically a five minute recitation featuring an essay someone wrote on what they believe in.
This year's list of goals includes having my writing published, so I thought this could be a good opportunity to attempt to accomplish my goal.
I submitted my essay last week so we'll see what happens. I was going to wait to see if my essay was actually chosen for broadcast before I posted anything because how cool would that be? But seeing how they get tens of thousands of essays, I thought I would publish it myself before it gets filed away:
I believe in grace.
It doesn’t always make sense to me; but when ambiguities such as grace and love manifest themselves, I’m moved by the clarity they bring.
When I was in the third grade, my teacher planned activities for our class to celebrate spring: For weeks I looked forward to making treats and dying eggs. I remember telling my mom how much fun it was going to be and I imagined what colors and designs I would choose. Before the big day, my teacher told us to come to class on Friday with a hollowed out egg. We were also told to bring our spelling test signed by a parent, and if we didn’t, we would have to sit out from the activities.
At nine years old, I was the perfect student. I was studious, I was obedient, and I was responsible. So when I forgot to bring my spelling test that Friday, I was devastated. I knew what the consequence would be. When my class jumped from their chairs to collect art supplies, I sat still in my desk examining my perfect, hollowed out egg, overcome with disappointment as I fought the inevitable tears.
It wasn’t long before my teacher pulled me aside. She knelt down, descending below my sad self and said I should join the rest of the class. With tears in her eyes she told me I could bring my spelling test on Monday. And then she gave me a hug. I couldn’t believe it. My disappointment disappeared with this unexpected gift.
Twenty years later, I remember this moment. Even though I fell short of what was required of me, my teacher graced me with love and understanding. She could have stood her ground and let me sit out as an example to the other students, but she knew punishing me for this small mistake wouldn’t teach me a new lesson. The lesson I learned that day was how much grace can lift someone’s spirit.
Still, I seem to have a hard time grasping grace in my life. I sometimes subscribe to the idea of karma – what goes around comes around. But then I’m reminded this attitude of a balanced behavioral checkbook is detrimental to my happiness. If I’m constantly keeping count of what I feel I’m entitled to I may never be satisfied. If I’m blessed beyond what I deserve I might never feel worthy. I must remind myself that I know better. Not everyone is punished for breaking the rules just like not everyone is rewarded for their efforts. Life may not be fair, but when I think about it, more often than not, I’m on the fortunate end of the imbalance. And this moves me to offer the same grace to others.
I believe in being gracious to others and I believe in accepting others’ graciousness whether I’ve earned it or not. Sometimes you are blessed simply because someone loves you. And that is why grace is a gift – not a reward.