One of my favourite words in the English language is lavish. The word can be defined as, “sumptuously rich, elaborate or luxurious; to bestow something in generous or extravagant quantities upon”. No word better describes the grace of God.
An all perfect and all-powerful God saw it fit to take on flesh and dwell among the wicked and broken. Not only did he dwell among them, but he loved them. Loved them to the point of offering his body and blood as a sacrifice for them, swapping their death and shame for his life and righteousness. This truth, that God has chosen to love us with no other qualification than his own goodness, is nothing less than lavish.
I knew a lot of songs about grace. I would boldly lift my hands in church upon the sweet utterance of this word, savouring its poetic rhythm in my mouth. I could quote scriptures about grace and give you a theologically sound explanation of its source and effect. But ultimately, the grace of God felt more like an impersonal fact to be memorized. Studied but not lived. Theoretical not practical.
Like the fact that the earth is round, the grace of God displayed through the gospel story was little more than head-knowledge, failing to interrupt my day to day walk. As I saw people around me falling deeper into the mysteries of grace and being transformed by the reality of it in their lives, I began to question whether the grace of God was really meant for me. I believed in God and accepted his gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, but I still felt stuck in sin.
The words of Paul to the Romans never felt more real to me as I struggled to do the things I knew I should do and stop doing the things I knew I shouldn’t do (Romans 7:15-20). If God’s grace is supposed to transform me, why am I still the same messed up person I’ve always been? If all I have to do is believe, why do I still feel stuck in my faith? Why do the days of passion and fervor for God feel like remnants of glory days left behind me? Why, despite trying so hard, can’t I be good?
Therein lay my problem. Despite thinking I understood what grace was, my core belief was skewed. I believed grace was conditional upon my goodness. If I got to a place where I was no longer annoying to God then I would unlock the secret volt to his grace and become a real, life changed, testimony giving, back from the dead Christian. If I could just get to the next level of holiness on my own, God would see my efforts and swoop in with some grace to get me over the edge. Instead of seeing God as lavish in the giving of his grace, I saw him as stingy, holding out on the good stuff until I showed I was worthy of it.
What I needed was perspective. I needed to see the depth of my depravity to realize I could not bring myself back to life. I needed to see God’s grace from the perspective of my own sinfulness, so I could see the reality of God’s goodness. God brought me to a place where I could become aware of the foolishness of my own efforts so I could accept the completeness of his work.
I still wrestle with the concept of grace. But now instead of doing so with a spirit of unbelief I am able to do so with a spirit of wonder. I wrestle with it from the position of one who knows she has received grace upon grace, not because of her own efforts but because of the good God who sees her and calls her his own.