Grace: Undeserved, Unearned, Unmerited Favor
This post is not about divorce. Stay with me until the end. Three years ago, the man I was married to decided he did not love me anymore. It hurt-more than any pain I had felt before, but he did not become any less my husband in the moment he told me. He was still the man I had vowed to love no matter what and I still wanted to remain faithful to that covenant for as long as he was my husband. Those who were close to me through the year that followed could probably tell you of my pursuit to display grace. It was an imperfect pursuit, but a genuine desire.
“How were you able to show grace in the middle of your pain?”
This was asked of me this week. I will not lie to you-at first, I panicked. This is a real question. This is a raw question. There is weight here for someone other than myself. What can I offer? This was when I realized I was traveling a dead end path in my mind maze. I turned and began to walk back to where I made a wrong turn. What can I offer? I can offer Jesus. I am no wise scholar. I am no counselor. I am a girl with a story and a God who brought me through it.
When my former husband made the choice to leave our home, things went from fine (or my perception of fine which had actually not been fine at all) to ugly, fast. I remember sitting in shock in the living room one afternoon after yet another encounter with him, trying to talk to God. I had decided weeks earlier that I would not ask God “why” as I traveled through this season in my life, which left me sitting silent. I finally settled on “how”. How was I supposed to walk this road I never thought I would travel? How I was supposed to respond? How was I supposed to interact with him and treat him? I have never been the confrontational type and fighting back just didn’t seem to be the right choice. As I sat and cried I heard God say, “with grace.” That’s all He said, but He said it loud and clear. I declared grace over the whole thing right then and there. If I had to do this, I would do it with grace simply because that is what God desired of me.
Divorce is ugly and dark. Sin destroys everything it touches and scars were going to be unavoidable. But while everything swirled around me dark and ugly, I didn’t have to let everything in me swirl dark and ugly. When I first decided grace would be the theme for my journey wherever it went and however long it lasted, I didn’t understand exactly why God was calling me to it. Part of me hoped it was because He knew my husband would return. I hoped that by showing him grace, I would help him receive something he needed and heal in the ways he needed to heal. This desire helped fuel my choice for a while, but as it became more clear that he wasn’t changing his mind, I had to ask God over and over if I was still supposed to show the same grace and love. It would have been so much more satisfying to yell back, to tell people things I knew, to hold him accountable for things I decided to let go. The longer I did it, the more I learned that this call to show grace was less about him and more about me. It wasn’t about him changing his mind. It wasn’t about him changing. It wasn’t about the journey being any easier. It wasn’t about me coming out ahead because I chose grace. No, it was about what God wanted to do in me. It was about preserving who I was and growing where I needed to grow. It was about making something beautiful out of ashes-another of the many ways He did this.
I do not profess to be perfect-trust me. There were moments when I lost my cool and reacted. There were moments when my heart’s desire was to see him have a consequence equal to how I felt. At times, those moments turned to hopes and prayers to see some form of retribution. There were times when people in my life would tell me I was being weak and letting him control the situation. I had people urge me to fight back more. They said I needed to stand my ground and be mean to show him I wasn’t a doormat. They did not understand the calling I felt to do this with grace. I argue though that grace is not synonymous with weakness. Conversely, grace is perhaps the greatest act of strength and selflessness.
When it comes to how to show grace, I have no formula or “follow these simple steps” for you. I have no promise for you that everything will work out if you do (at least not the way the world would define things working out). I can’t even promise you that it will be well received or even seen by the one you offer it to or those around you. What I can assure you of is that grace, marvelous grace, was extended to you, and He who extended grace to you will empower you to extend it to others.
As I read through my journal now, I see prayer after prayer for the ability to show grace.
“Words cut deep again today…I want to do this with grace. I want to speak love and show love. I don’t want to cause him harm. I don’t want to teach him a lesson or take him for all he is worth, but I also don’t want to be taken advantage of or not be taken care of. Guide me to know how to show grace but still take care of us.”
“God, help me continue to show him love and grace in the face of whatever may come.”
“Help me take every step of this with grace. As much as is possible in things like this. Help me show grace no matter how it is received.”
You see, grace gives what you do not deserve. Grace is unmerited favor. Grace abandons what is “fair”. Grace abandons teaching lessons or sticking it to anyone, but rather forgives and loves. BUT, grace doesn’t mean you have sit quietly and let it happen. Showing grace is not the same as excusing actions or giving someone a free pass. It’s not forgiving them and then just hoping they will change. Grace toward a problematic person is not the choice not to act, but to choose to act in love. Grace is action free of vengeance.
I took actions in line with trying to save my marriage. This was a fight-a war against the enemy-but not a war against my husband. I took an offensive against what was trying to tear us apart. I learned later, that I was also on the offensive against what was trying to tear ME apart. Acting with grace provides a pathway to healing. Showing others grace is more about setting selfishness aside; setting self aside. It is easy to hold on to anger because we think it makes us feel better, but anger turns into bitterness the longer it takes root in our hearts.
This post is not about divorce. I am sure after reading all of the above, you beg to differ. No, this post is about grace. This post is about showing grace to others. Are you married? Have grace with your spouse! Grace shouldn’t start at divorce; grace can be part of what keeps you from it! In a relationship? Have grace. Have friends? Have grace. Have family? Have grace. Have kids? Tons of grace. Is there a difficult person in your life? Have grace. Showing grace when you are treated right is easy. Showing grace when it isn’t seen grows you. Showing grace and having it recognized by others gives you a superficial satisfaction, but continuing to act in it when it isn’t seen will bring you a deeper sense of love for that person whom you freely give it to. I would argue that true love doesn’t exist without grace. Love them when they are unloveable. Forgive easily. Speak in love even when you need to say hard things. Choose grace, for Grace chose you.
And with that, I assure you that my next post will not be quite so heavy!