Sunday, May 11, 2014

Grace is my Mom's name


(This was originally written in the late 1990s;
it is included in
Words for Spring”.)

My Mom’s name is Grace. Growing up, in church, we always sat in the same place: On the right side, on the end, three rows from the front, right behind another Grace. I was surrounded by Grace! Grace was always near at hand.

As we know, kids minds work weird (mine especially so, and even now still) so every time we sang a hymn that contained the word grace, I used to think we were singing about the two Graces somehow. I mean, who wouldn’t?

Every time Amazing Grace came up, which was fairly often, it tickled me and I’d chuckle.

Then I’d get smacked. Not too hard, just enough to remind me I was in church and that meant being quiet.

But still I chuckled while we sang. And so did Mom and Dad, though they tried to hide it, because they knew why I was chuckling. I was cute then and cracked them up with stuff like that.

A child’s theology is also a weird thing. My idea of grace related more to the words, “Just wait until your father gets home.”

The sound of this was not so sweet. But once those words of unwelcome promise were uttered, a lot of negotiation, pleading, and downright bribery went on—appealing to Grace—before Dad got home.

Fresh picked wildflowers from the woods across the street often had a great soothing effect and seemed to erase Mom’s memory. Not always. But usually. And when it worked, that to me, was real grace!

When the flowers and child’s charm didn’t work, the words, “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you,” just seemed to add insult to the injury I was about to receive.

The injury was more in my mind than on my behind, but it’d still hurt. Discipline was supposed to be a form of mercy, but it didn’t feel merciful. It kinda stung and burned a bit, if you know what I mean.

It’s taken a few years to understand that, in fact, the grace applied to my backside truly was merciful, and truly was a grace of sorts. Part of that realization came the first time I had to spank my son. That did hurt me worse than any spanking I’d ever received. But my intent was to apply the grace of discipline that would yield obedience and character in my son.

When God disciplines us, I believe it also hurts Him worse than it hurts us. After all, His love for us is perfect and infinite, and He desires us to be holy. He loves us more than our moms. So, we have amazing grace. How sweet the sound! Because it does save a wretch like me, and like you.

God’s grace is free, but not wimpy. It wasn’t won cheaply, nor is it applied cheaply. To His children God applies it aggressively and lavishly. Aggressive grace can sting, whether applied in discipline or as cleansing.

Besides wildflowers, the woods also had small streams that were more like small muddy rivers when it rained. Okay, so can you guess what me and my little neighborhood buddies would do when that happened? Yep. We played in the water… and the mud. I’d come home covered, head to toe, in mud. What’d Mom do? Simple. She’d hose me down. The water was cold and the pressure stung. But, once again, that was grace.

Living in this world is like slogging through the mud. Daily the dirt of life and the sins of our stubborn flesh can cake us, head to heart, in spiritual mud. And when we come home to Him, God hoses us down with the washing of His grace.

After the hose, out comes the scrub brush of holiness and the lye soap of Jesus’ blood. His love is never-ending, His mercies are new every morning. Our spiritual skin may get rubbed a bit raw in the process, but it always feels good to be clean.

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I miss my Mom, and my Dad; they were good people. I included this as part of the eulogy at my Mother's funeral; you can read more here if you're interested. How do you view God's grace? What memories do you most cherish about your mother? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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