Thursday, September 27, 2012

Real Grace Produces Sweat

“Grace isn’t real unless it produces sweat.”  I heard that on the radio about a month ago.  I came home and wrote it on our dry erase board in the kitchen.  My husband looked at me like I was strange.  “Well, what does that mean?” I asked him…we both fumbled through a conversation of what it means in our heads, but I left it up to contemplate it some more, and to remind me to ask God to show me how to sink that into my heart.

We’ve heard of grace in that it is by grace we have been saved (Eph. 2:8)…it’s the unmerited favor of God.  We have done nothing to receive His free gift of life.  Yes, but there are other mentions of grace that I guess I never really understood.  I am guilty of interchanging grace for mercy.

This week, I have looked grace in the face.  I am sweating.  I think I get it. 

Grace is mentioned 170 times in the Bible…probably not something I should have casually dismissed in my walk with God, huh? 

Grace is indeed unmerited favor.  We have done nothing to deserve our salvation, and there are no works that we could do to make God love us any more or less.  There is also nothing in the world that could separate us from the love of God.   But grace is also a gift that God gives us to live this life to its fullness.  It’s the oomph we need to keep juggling everything we’ve been given-and to juggle with joy.  That’s right, grace is juggling with joy! (Notice, I am not using joy and happiness interchangeably-vast difference!)

2 Corinthians 9:8 says that “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”  The New Living Translation says it this way:  “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”

Both versions state that this grace is given generously so that it abounds to us…so where does the sweat come in?  Because here’s the deal…God’s heart is to give, then why do I so often feel like I don’t have everything I need, let alone anything left over to share with others?  My plain and simple answer is this:  grace is freely given, but we have to take it!

It’s been a really hard week at the Stack house.  My 5 year old fell at Sunday school and had 3 stitches on the back of his head.  Though today it seems to be better, Monday and Tuesday were filled with headaches, oozing (sorry if that’s tmi!), and well, he just needed a mommy.  But so did my 2 year old who is cutting his 2 year old molars and who also accidentally had some peanut butter, resulting in some serious welts all over his face.  He needed his mommy too.  Wait, but so did my sweet little princess.  She is, after all, only 6 months old, and her top gums are swollen…she has the runny nose, teething fever.  I tried to cuddle all three at once, but they wanted me to themselves.  And then there is my poor 4 year old…healthy as a horse, and feels so left out because he isn’t requiring medical attention and extra snuggles.  Of course, there were also all of life's daily chores that had to be done on top of some other things that are challenging us right now.

I admit that I lacked patience much of the time.  I cried after they went to bed…partly because of exhaustion, partly because I hadn’t even had time to shower or eat an actual meal each day.  Partly because I am selfish.  Yup, I still want a little time each day to myself.  I’m being honest here…not time to shower or eat, but to create, write, read…whatever.  This is SO not the season for that right now!

My 4 year old loves playing games….anything competitive is his cup of tea!  Feeling guilty for not giving him “extra” cuddles this week, I told him that if he cleaned up his legos, I would play any game he wanted yesterday.  The little ones were sleeping, and I figured I had about an hour.  All I needed to do was prep dinner…perfect.  I could do that while he makes sure he little lego pieces are put away before our baby-zillas awoke.  Well, he took his good, old time cleaning those legos up.  I told him over and over that we were running out of time. I was watching him dawdle as I hurriedly chopped veggies.  Please take my offer of our special time together.  I watched him continue to play.  I really wanted to spoil him with my time and attention, and I asked him to only do one thing for me.  Those legos had to be cleaned up before the little ones woke up, and I needed him to do it since I was rushing through my chores to spend time with him…come on kid!  Sure enough, little ones were awake and the legos were still scattered.  Of course, he complained and whined, claiming that I told him we’d play.  Yes, I gave you what you needed from me, but you needed to take it.  Taking it required some sweat.  Ah-ha!

Grace is the unmerited favor of God and the abilitiy to receive abundant life from his glorious riches.   God used our lego fiasco to teach me what had been written on the dry erase board for a month…grace isn’t real unless it produces sweat.  He’s always giving it, but we have to take it.  My dear child needed to take hold of what I was offering and mix it with some sweat, not to have my love which is freely given, but to have fullness of joy.  What a great revelation, and a great thing to teach to my children.  That we are not entitled, but that we have everything we need, we just have to take it.  We have to run the race.  We have to work out our face with fear and trembling.  We need to take heart, not be afraid, and believe.

It is Thursday.  I still have two teething kids, and one of them is a strong-willed two year old.  My first grader is learning fractions, and my 4 year old is learning to print.  I could use some grace.  I want fullness of joy.  I want enough left over to give to others.  But just like when we want to lose weight, we gotta sweat. 

So, let’s sweat it out together.  Let’s take hold of everything we need.  Let’s have enough to share with each other.  Let’s juggle with joy!


P.S.  I played a game (or three) with my little guy after the littles went to bed that night.  We even popped popcorn…after the legos were cleaned up.

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