I used to not get grace.
I didn’t understand it and therefore couldn’t appreciate it. I used to read dictionaries, but somehow I never read the definition of grace. In my mind, the word grace conjured something rather obscure, on a rung higher than forgiveness but below love.
Whenever I heard the word used in a church setting, I nodded, smiled and chalked grace up to that salvation experience. Grace meant God forgave, granted mercy, and withheld punishment. Grace was a good thing, a necessary ingredient to a right relationship with my Savior.
Slowly, gradually, what I thought grace meant chipped away. At first, a message I heard caused me to wonder at what I thought I already knew. A book I read made me notice the word popping up more and more often in Christian circles — and the various facets of my life. A Christmas Sunday School lesson intended for the kindergartners I taught, a lesson about an ordinary girl chosen for an extraordinary destiny, made me think.
This continued until what I thought grace was (which wasn’t really all that much) had moved over to make room for its true definition. The acronym I’d known for years was the final stab that punctured the balloon of my false interpretation.
Forgiveness is pardon offered. Mercy is not getting what you indeed deserve. But grace? It’s one of the truest expressions of love.
Grace is so much more than having a slate wiped clean or a heart renewed. Grace goes beyond the sinner’s prayer and the Kyrie eleison (“Lord, have mercy”). Grace stretches the soul past pride and pardon, and even redemption. Grace, according to Webster, is “unmerited divine assistance,” “special favor,” or “honor.” Grace means getting what you don’t deserve from the One who, really, should be the last One who has to give anything.
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. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
When I’m walking to the mailbox, trip, and hear the neighbor snicker, I need grace so I can take a deep breath, gather the bills and letters, and walk back inside. I need grace when a friend disagrees with me on Who Jesus is and I want to keep talking until they believe me. When someone’s kindness blows me away, I need to accept grace.
I get grace now. And I strive to accept and share it, too.