Giving the gift of grace doesn't guarantee a happy ending. Oh that it would! I remember when my daughter was in 1st grade. She and another young girl were sharing a computer when my daughter accidentally elbowed the other little girl. "I am so sorry," my daughter exclaimed, "Would you forgive me?" The other little girl, angry, said, "No!" My daughter was devastated.
Just because we do the right thing, doesn't mean we get the right ending. Such is life. In our relationships, we can give and give and give, and still, sometimes not win over the other person. That's not to say we shouldn't try. We should love as Jesus loved. We should give grace. But we shouldn't become doormats or co-dependent. Sometimes the most graceful thing to do is to walk away from a relationship. To continue to "love" and "give grace" from afar.
In Acts 15, the Apostle Paul and his ministry partner Barnabas have a disagreement. Neither is willing to relent, and so they go their separate ways. Both men of God, both spreading the Word of God. Yet, not together. Still, Paul speaks with esteem and affection about Barnabas in the epistles written after the event. He gives grace to Barnabas, even while choosing not to continue in ministry with him.
Outside of heaven, will we not have perfect relationships. We are not perfect people, and even if we are, we are around other non-perfect people. The only grace that never fails is God's. His grace saves, and never lets us down. We can show love and grace to others, but we must show ourselves that same love and grace. And that means sometimes choosing to walk away.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Monday, January 30, 2012
On Friday, we discussed giving the gift of grace to strangers we "meet" in the media. Today, we focus on giving grace to those we know personally.
Another cancellation? It was almost laughable. One of my best friends and I have weekly lunch dates, every Friday. In December with school parties and the 2 weeks of Christmas break, we hadn't had a chance to see each other.
Then came January. She went out of town for a long weekend. I had to cancel when an appointment was unexpectedly rescheduled. Then she had a sick child. We had good spirits about the whole thing, laughing as the next cancellation came, more expected now than not. Neither of us ever considered that the other had any motive other than to get together, but life happens.
This is a sharp contract to another friendship I had several years back. Again, in December, I knew my schedule would busy, so I emailed the friend to explain to her I wouldn't be able to get together much that month. Imagine my shock when I received a response saying, "If you want to end the friendship just say so, don't make excuses." Of course I emailed back apologizing! However, soon after came another email and another, every time assuming the worst about me or my intentions.
My "friend" had experienced a childhood filled with rejection. And so in adulthood, she expected it. And she expected it so strongly that she went looking for it, and accusing of it at every turn. Not surprisingly she often found rejection because of her actions. Those actions, the coping mechanisms that protected her in a sad childhood, hindered her in her adult life.
I tried extending grace to her in spite of her actions and accusations, but she couldn't extend any grace my way, sure that every action had an ulterior motive. Finally I realized that perhaps the most graceful thing to do was to exit the relationship. (On Wednesday we'll talk more about what happens when relationships fail in spite of grace.)
But today, I'm glad that my dear friend who I missed seeing all of December, and most of January this year, believes the best about me. She gives me the gift of grace, as I do her. We may let each other down at times, because we are human. But because we extend grace, there is always forgiveness.
Are you extending grace in your relationships?
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8