“Do you know what I love most about God?”
My daughter asks this as we share a brief breakfast date before preschool one morning.
“No, sweetie. What’s that?”
“His power,” she whispers, leaning across the table, balancing on eager elbows to give her words further weight.
My 4-year old daughter gets it. Whenever she considers grace, this mysterious word with meaning much bigger than her small frame, she usually wraps both arms tightly around her ribs in sheer delight. She leaps, giggles, dances, hugs herself into a tight knot and shivers. She knows this truth in a place well beyond \her head, deep within her soul, her heart a treasure chest that carefully guards grace as gold.
As a mother, I could never express my deep gratitude for this. Usually my prayer for her (and her brother) goes something like this:
“Dear Lord (as if I’m writing a letter and sending it north like kids at Christmas), DESPITE ME, please help these monsters, er, my precious children grow into men and women after your own heart. Thankyouthankyouthankyou. Love, Andrea.”
What seems so messy, so imperfect (all of me on any given day) is actually part of the eternal plan; God uses human relationship to express his cosmic order, the working out of his good purpose in the middle of the mortal. Parent and child, man and wife, brother and friend, Christ and church. Each human partnership by eternal design brings deeper awareness to grace, its forever good and our need for it. What matters most is whether or not we accept the invitation to participate in this heaven unfolding within our days and duties. Certainly we all (briefly) exist in this God-turns world but accepting this invitation is to live richly in his promise of presence, every moment redeemed, boundlessly blessed by a governing order that declares victory over our hot mess.
I know first hand the power of this invitation, the literal grace that lives there. It is this that slowly delivers me from sin management to full freedom in forgiveness. Even as I struggle to carry my sin, God whispers to my heart a bigger truth. Slowly and daily I’ve accepted the invitation to let it go, to see that just as Jesus has undone Adam’s sin, my faith in his resurrection undoes every moment of doubt, pride, sadness, despair. Even as I accept this foundational invitation, I receive and relish others: an invitation to grieve together the loss of new life, to cross through counseling a wide chasm of misunderstanding toward delightful reconciliation, to rediscover my forever passion of music and adventure. From this restored hope comes joy.
Perhaps the reason we resist this invitation is the vulnerability required to be together intimate, to be in community with other imperfect people, to be imperfect publicly. Certainly courage is necessary, but when we re-define perfect and its opposite the stakes change. If our perfection is sinlessness, we’re all doomed. But, if perfection is, as the bible records, the fulfillment of God’s promise, his good work complete, then imperfection is not failure but unfinished progress, grace-drenched in that we receive his presence promise even as we cry for help to hold our end of the faith covenant. In this way, we don’t fear the imperfect but accept the invitation to reach together toward complete restoration both today and forever.
The greatest invitation strikes me as the one in which the artist of this universe and countless others woos us into intimate relationship, one in which we participate – savor – the best of his craft, Life. Each day a word, each generation a chapter in his redemption narrative, the ending of which I cannot imagine. To live bare is to embrace the design of our desire to join in, pretense courageously cast aside for rich meaning in shared sorrow, anticipation, worship, purpose, joy. Would you join me here?