Archive for the ‘grace’ Category

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10

Social distancing is a challenge!

Part of our problem is that many of us feel compelled to be productive. We are works oriented. We want to save ourselves.

This comes from within and without. Within lies the need for self-validation — through doing.

I’ve become habituated to that hard-driving motive to constantly do. Maybe you too. Our house is currently sparklingly clean, floors dusted, toilets cleaned, dishes done and put away, garage organized, weeds pulled from the garden. It makes sense. Order. Beauty. Activity. Busyness. And “I’ve got to do something so I don’t go stir crazy! I need to list at least a few things I’ve accomplished by the end of the day as I fall asleep!”

Yesterday, I scraped the grass out of cracks in the driveway. Scraping — for sanity! I also trimmed my toenails and listed that as one of my big three before I went to sleep. Clippings, to prevent an existential vacuum.

It’s okay. Looks better. The driveway. My toes. I did something! Hope the grass and my nails grow back so I can get after them again soon!

The other thing driving us toward productivity is from beyond the borders of our rooms and yards. It’s them.

I think; maybe you think, “Everyone else must be happier and more adaptive and creative and productive than me! What the heck are they up to?”

And you can find out.

Everywhere online are articles and videos on things to do during the coronavirus lockdown! Even I wrote one! There are the videos of people doing all kinds of cool and unique stuff — working from home, jumping jacks, singing out of their windows, video-chatting, baking, cooking, writing books, alphabetizing their sock drawers.

But this morning listening to a podcast on this issue I heard one woman ask a salient question, “Can’t I just stay in my sweatpants and be anxious?”

Yes! You can!

We workaholics, busy addicts, taskaphiles, list-mongers, chore-junkies, job-hounds, project-freaks, efficiency-peddlers and hobby-jobbies — we need to revisit the value of non-productive leisure.

What about the virtue of salutary sloth? What about the value of productive inertia? Robust indolence? Salvific slackardification? Curative lethargy? Goofoffery? Layaboutery? Or perhaps — meditation anyone?

We have often been preached the virtues of slowing down. Now is our moment, now is our opportunity. This the age of the pandemic flaneur. This is our opportune moment to find balance between doing and being.

Yes, do stuff. Especially to connect with and to care for others. Especially what God made you to do.

But also, could we for a time just be for a while?



Just take a moment to — be.

Take a time out when you don’t have to prove anything or be somebody special to justify your existence or impulsively busy your body so that you don’t have to think about who you are and what makes you valuable and lovable even when you’re not preductable.

I love you, you idleness-experts, loafing gourmands, shiftlessness devotees, aficionados torpid, grace addicts, mercy-mongers, love gurus.

Teach us grace!

Teach us a sweet-potent, leisurely-vigorous, lethargic-salvific contentment.

Recently, I was asked by someone I don’t know well if I would do them a favor. It was a time-consuming and stress-inducing favor. I said, “Yes,” and my stomach tightened.

This month, my daughter has been in need of rides — at night, late —  to get home from events she has gone to. I’ve said, “Yes,” every time. “I’ll go get her,”  and when I have gotten back home after an hour and a-half of driving in traffic, I’ve often wished that I hadn’t had to do that.

Done. Cooked.

Favor fatigued.

Last week, I set up a process where I am going to help someone fund raise. Meetings are required. My own money will get involved. I’m taking a bit of a risk with this. I’m wondering how it will go.  But I want this person funded. They do a lot of good.

So it seems, on reflection that I have said, “Yes,” a lot lately to doing favors, for others, not basing this on what they have or haven’t done for me, but simply on being kind, helpful, gracious, giving.

And as the favors have complicated —  and favors do complicate, often morphing beyond the original expectation or request — I have felt the duress, the tiredness, the time-consuming, mid-stomach tightening of them.

It’s interesting.

To be gracious, to do favors, to give grace —  to do what you don’t get anything back from but instead give something up for just because someone else needs it, or asks  — it isn’t always easy.

Someone criticized me last week. I put it aside. I won’t hold it against them. I will favor them. I will give them grace. The truth can be raspy; grace quite ghastly.

Grace or giving grace or giving favor — when we think of it in Biblical, Pauline, God-given sense — is often defined as “unmerited favor,” as if it is a kind of letting someone off the hook, like saying, “Oh, it’s okay what you did that was wrong you still get a star” a sort of stepping back with a hand out, a kind of not bringing punishment, a not bringing consequences, a sort of mind-trick that badges those who didn’t earn a badge.

That is far too passive a definition.

Grace isn’t a step back, a step away, a kind of giving up on bringing consequences,  something merely in the mind, an attitude adjustment, a quick and easy hand out, a dime.  Grace is a step forward, right into the middle of mess. To give grace is to thrust oneself smack into the middle of the action — and stay there.

Grace takes guts; grace takes agency; grace take work; grace takes a type of forbearance that bears forward, that bears gift.  Graces costs — plenty.  The one receiving grace may relaxed, may feel relief, may feel suddenly special; the giver won’t necessarily. The giver of favor and favors, of grace and graciousness, that giver gives, and in doing so runs out, and doing so holds back, on doing something easier — not giving, not helping, not forgiving — in order to do something harder.

When God gave grace to us in Christ, God worked his tail off. He suffered the giving. He didn’t do what would come easiest and quickest, something like saying “Solve your own problems! You created them.” He gave up his life to give his grace.

Grace — this stuff is expensive, and yet that is precisely why it is worth giving, and receiving. Grace is akin to diamonds, gold, big bucks. Grace costs a lot, because grace does a lot.

I’m rethinking the favors I’ve committed to. I’m turning away from any feelings of being used, of wanting out. I’m committing again to just do them, to just follow through, to suck it up and put out, even when I don’t feel like it, because grace is not a feeling; it’s a behavior, an action and an agency that changes the world for good.

Of course, my being gracious to others will be hard work. Of course doing favors will involve stress. Of course forgiving will exhaust me. And of course — it will be worth it.  Grace will retain and add value — it always does; it always will — a ton of it.

Grace has often been called a work, “a work of grace,” because it is work, that changes lives.

It has and is changing mine.