For this blog I just wanted to write the word “grace” a lot….If I ever had another daughter I would probably call her Grace as I’m currently having something of a grace re-discovery at the moment.
Think I have known it as a doctrine, or hypothetically, and have experienced it too on occasions, but this season I am beginning to discover it afresh.
I think ultimately I believed in theory that God loved me (but then I also knew that he loves everyone) and although I knew I wasn’t saved by works (because I was a good protestant) but deep down I still feel unlovable and frightened of “upsetting” God, but then I couldn’t manage to be holy either.
I had odd moments of breakthrough where I grasped how much God loved me and how completely amazing his forgiveness was and how awesome his hope was, but I used to drift back into feeling fearful and knowing the verses about God’s awesome love for me but not always feeling them.
I have described myself at times as a ‘recovering pharisee’ I know I have this lurking within me, but I have realised that perhaps I had just learned more subtle ways to slip back into old, dangerous and sinful mindsets.
I believe that the way we think about ourselves creeps out in how we think about other people, and the way we see God actually underpins it all. Perhaps I was not in what the rehab community call “active recovery”.
For me, I realised by God foundation was a bit wonky, and needed some underpinning.
God gave me a picture two weeks ago (this is recent for me) of entering with fear and trepidation unsure of what reaction you’ll receive –maybe a colleague, employer, sibling, spouse, parent- and you are walking on egg shells, you know they are displeased with you but you can’t work out why or what you have done, and apologise for everything hoping that a scatter gun might make things alright. The atmosphere in the room in condemning, they refuse eye contact, and you want to creep away but you can’t (often because you have no where else to go).
God showed me that picture and said “that isn’t how I am” as I think about how I would take a deep breath before putting my key in the lock, ringing the bell or opening the door!
Instead God gave me another picture, that absolutely broke me, reminding me of my beloved dog “Teddy”, who whenever he sees me his tail begins to wag and he’s excited to see me, leaping up and trying overly affectionately to lick my face.
God said: “I am like Teddy”. I very rarely cry in my quiet times. This is the God who in Hebrews we can approach with confidence –or as some translations put it- boldness- a God who tells us that his perfect love drives out fear, and that (because of Jesus) there is no condemnation. This is the God who Jesus chose to portray as the Father running to meet his child (who had come from the pigsty) and embracing in his ‘shame-covering love’ and whose welcome was so extravagant that the fatted calf found himself on the menu, and the Father said “put a ring on his finger” –which was the equivalent of giving him the family credit card.
Grace is not a doctrine, it is I believe the defining characteristic of God who is “agape love”, Jesus is often described as “love with skin on”, “love personified”.
I have started to read a book “A Christ-like God” I’m only a few pages in, but its starting point is that Jesus says: “If you have seen me you have seen the Father” (Jn.14.9); Jesus shows us a God who runs to us sinners (not away from us) who ‘touches the untouchable’ and brings restoration, grace and hope, and gives us a model to emulate of grace that reaches out.
As I began to see myself afresh with grace healed eyes I realise that this needs to ‘overflow’ to other people, that God is wanting us to come to him rather than draw away from him, one conversation always sticks in my heart and mind from when I was doing Street Pastors in Kingswood Bristol, I was wearing my dog collar and a girl came up to me with anger in her eyes saying: “I have had three kids from three different blokes, what does your God think about that” the girl snarled at me. I quickly prayed to God that I wouldn’t screw this up or make anything worse. I saw her arm had GRACIE tattooed on it, and asked if that was her daughters name, it was, and said about how Grace was God’s undeserved love towards us, and ended up talking about God’s love for her, it was only a brief moment, but one that has stayed with me, the moment got lost with a whole load of girls dressed as smurfs arrived (as you do!) but I wanted to shout after her “God’s not angry with you but wants you to know he loves you” but the moment was gone.
So, as I think of Ted, my dog, who runs to meets us, even if I’ve left him in the kitchen (which he hates) he always forgiveness and is pleased to see me whenever I appear.
Ted, who would greet anyone with same affection whether they were a Princess or a burglar (yeah not much of a guard dog!) his greeting shows no favouritism.
As I thought more of his loyalty and his extravagant love I realised that he is a Dog of Grace.
I wondered perhaps God is calling me to be more like my dog whose first instinct and response is grace and love (although I probably will restrain from licking peoples faces!).