The Truth About Grace

Grace only sticks to our imperfections. -Donald Miller

Donald Miller has been a favorite author of mine since I first read his most popular book, Blue Like Jazz. I felt like he asked the questions no one else was brave enough to ask and pressed into the hard conversations when others backed away. So when his newest book, Scary Close was released early in 2015, I snatched it up and inhaled it. It's a book about doing the hard work of being in healthy relationships and a healthy relationship was what I was after. Matthew and I were still in the dating phase and I had come to realize I didn't actually know everything there was to know about relationships and intimacy like I thought I did. This book was a huge help in so many ways. It shone a light into the dark places where I still had my walls up and helped to reveal some major flaws I hadn't yet realized were within me. 

But this post isn't really about the book. It's about grace. Miller found the words my heart needed to hear to fully comprehend what a life changing gift God's grace really is. Here's what he said:

I have to trust that my flaws were the ways through which I would receive grace. We don't think of our flaws as the glue that binds us to the people we love, but they are. Grace only sticks to our imperfections. Those who can't accept their imperfections, can't accept grace either.

I wish you could've seen my facial expression when I read that paragraph the first time. In my face you would've seen the odd duo of anguish and relief. Anguish because I have to own up to all my shortcomings for grace to apply to me, yet relief that my shortcomings are not my undoing, they are my salvation

Are you really hard on yourself? I am. I work hard to do things the "right" way, to get a project "right" the first time, to say the "right" things, to look the "right" way, etc. And because I feel like I'm trying so hard, when I do mess up, I don't handle criticism very well. I've been bent this way my entire life and it has harmed me more than it has done me any good.

In fact, these characteristics, being "right", following the rules, not accepting constructive criticism...they are all very similar to a group of folks in the Bible. Ever heard of the Pharisees? If you have, then you know that typically, they aren't the good guys in the stories. In most accounts, they are so prideful, so stuck in their "rightness", they refused to recognize the true Son of God. 

What about the story of the Prodigal Son? Remember that one? Selfish, spoiled, party boy, realizes the error of his ways, so he returns home to a father who celebrates his return and an older brother who is less than thrilled to see him. The brother is angry because he did everything "right" in life and feels as though it went unnoticed. No one ever threw him a party!

I often wish I related more to the Prodigal Son, but sadly, in my pride and in my "rightness", I relate more to the older brother and the Pharisees. It's really humiliating to admit that out loud.

That's why Miller's words are so important: Grace only sticks to our imperfections.

The Pharisees chose the law, the older brother chose his pride, and both missed out on the big party that God was throwing. You see, if we don't have imperfections, then we don't have a need for Christ or His saving death on the cross. If I can't humble myself and own up to my wrongness, my sin, then why would I believe I need a Savior?

Jesus says it himself in Mark 2:17, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Which means I should take the position of the younger brother. Boy did he blow it, but boy did he know it.

My mistakes, my shortcomings, my sins, they are opportunities for me to receive grace. They are chances for me to humble myself then bask in the wonder that is the forgiveness of my Father. They can be reminders of how much I need a Savior and proof of how much He continues to give me daily. 

I don't want to be a Pharisee or an older brother anymore. I don't want to need to be "right" all the time. I want to be like the Prodigal Son who knew he wasn't right, not even good enough to eat the scraps of pigs, so he approaches his dad, who runs to meet him and shower him in grace. That's what our Dad wants to do for us. He wants to heap armloads of grace into the emptiness our sin creates. We just have to be humble enough to stop being "right" all the time and show him where those empty places are. 

If grace only sticks to my imperfections, then I should be dying to reveal those imperfections any chance I get. I should be eager for others to point them out to me in love, so that my dependency on grace becomes more and more real to me. I should embrace my flaws and not bristle in self defense, because I know deep down, I can't get through life on Earth without His grace. 

Indeed, when we understand the true nature of His love for us, we will prefer to come to Him poor and helpless. We will never be ashamed of our distress. Distress is to our advantage when we have nothing to seek but mercy. We can be glad of our helplessness when we really believe that His power is made perfect in our infirmity.
-Thomas Merton