Monday, April 30, 2012

Oxymoron: Extra Grace Required

Jesus and I had a moment together in the Spirit this morning. was more like several moments...a spiritual staring contest where I raised a stern eyebrow in the direction of His church, and Jesus raised a gentle eyebrow back to my own heart. 

Clearly the whole matter was not resolved entirely for me, as here I am lingering in the implications, and still wondering what (if anything) He intends to do with my heart's pained indictments.

Why such a hard attitude?

I'd learned recently that around some ministries, wounded folks--people struggling to find peace and hope in the midst of messy life crises--are marked out amongst the leadership as "EGR"  - Extra Grace Required. 

My guts immediately seized in response.  How snarky! How utterly disrespectful, patronizing, and downright cruel to reduce people in the care of Christ's church to an acronym.

I grieved (and continue to grieve) that there are surely a few circumstances and ministries in which I have almost certainly been marked out by this reductionist, catch-all terminology. 

Here's the deal...

I wake each morning, just as everyone else, and I am set to the task of clinging to Christ for another 24 hours of navigating through a fallen world.  I am covered in the scars of vicious, soul-wounding abuses, and weighed by their traumatizing psychological, physical, and spiritual aftermath.  Seen in that light, I can say with a resounding "YES!" that I require extra grace on a nano-second by nano-second basis. This acknowledgement is the sort of daily revelation that my faith has taught my heart to celebrate with a beautiful humility.

Yet I have to wonder...Does anyone really see themselves any differently?  Is there anyone among us who doesn't operate under the expectation of "extra" grace as a requirement for daily living?  The whole point of least the grace in Christ that I that it is extra in every way.  It is above and beyond what we deserve.  Grace is one of the glorious extras given to us in lavish abundance through the supernatural (extra) power and manifestation of the risen Lord, the Holy Spirit.


It makes a gal bristle to imagine a group of folks, charged with the spiritual care and discipleship of others, labeling the more visibly wounded souls of this world as somehow more in need of God's grace than themselves.  That notion smacks of a kind of moral and spiritual superiority--a complete lack of UN-graciousness toward anyone who does not fit into a convenient mold, or follow like a lemming.

It would seem to me that the whole point of "extra" the degree that I even believe in the that the person on the receiving end is lifted up, treated with genuine gentleness and kindness, rather than passed along to successive ministries with a roll of the eyes and a huff at the difficulty involved in caring for such a one.  

Perhaps there is a universal rationing of grace that only those in high places know about...?

This view of grace troubles me deeply. I imagine it like the last drop of expensive perfume in a gaudy bottle...something that only the wealthiest have access to, and which they have determined to share sparingly with folks who don't smell quite so fine. 

If the old hymn holds any wisdom, and if there is truly grace that is greater than all my sin, then there surely has to be enough grace to cover my wounded self (and its consequent weaknesses) while still leaving more than enough to cover everyone else's.

And at these thoughts my heart dropped.  

How many times, I wondered, have I acted impoverished and put upon to serve as God's purveyor of grace?  How many times have I responded to others with an attitude of superiority and impatience, as if I were being asked to tap into MY special reserves of grace rather than the Father's?  No matter how many times I pluck logs out of my own eyes it still hurts like hell in my heart.

But my spirit lifts as that pain gives way to remembering how amazing grace saved a wretch like me.

I am reminded afresh today that grace is not mine to dispense on an ad hoc basis or with a heart filled with judgment.  The fractures and scars in this broken vessel of light known as me have been filled to overflowing with God's grace, which was purchased for a wretch like me upon the Cross.  His grace is not for me to portion out to others more difficult and pathetic than me, but to let flow freely from the never-ending source through me.

Extra Grace Required...?  Oh yes!  I could not live without it.

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