Crossroads, Waiting and Spontaneously Combusting

At a crossroads? This is yet another word that I am hearing in conversations all around me...

I remember during my teen years, my youth pastor would say something like, "Life is a series of choices. From the kind of cereal you're going to eat, to the friends you hang out with, to whether or not you're going to live your life in this moment for God." And he would be right. We have many decisions before us in this life as to how we will choose to respond to the things that come at us.

But here I am, a "grown" woman, and I have come to understand that sometimes...there just isn't a choice for me to make. Sometimes, I don't get to choose what happens in this moment. Sometimes, I am simply at the mercy of my Lord and must trust that He has this moment and me in the palm of His hand.

Maybe you've heard of this. It's referred to as waiting. And I freaking hate it.

I'm sure most that read this are perfectly adept at this precious and saintly virture and this doesn't even apply to you. To be honest, I'm actually a rock star at waiting when it comes to my meal out somewhere or a phone call or in line at the grocery store (I lead a very glamorous life).

My difficulty? Waiting on God for instruction on my next move in an area of my life. I suck at this.

I feel like I am at a crossroads. But instead of just looking down each road and determining where to turn and keep on trucking, I am at a standstill. I am waiting on further directions. While everyone around me knows exactly which turn to make, I sit here wondering how long a human can actually wait on an answer without spontaneously combusting or foaming at the mouth.

This morning I opened up my bible to Psalms. Then Proverbs. Then I considered chucking my bible across the room, but I thought that THIS would probably be the straw that broke the camel's back and sent me to hell. So I didn't. I just slammed it onto the table really hard.

All kidding aside, I was angry. Why don't I have answers? What am I doing here, God? I don't feel well, I don't sleep well, I don't remember things that I want to say or do. I'm stuck here just WAITING.

As I prayed these things to God, the word crossroads came to mind again. So I sat down to write. And I really wish this post had a happy ending, but there is no resolution...yet.

By faith I choose to believe that my answers are coming. I choose to trust that God is in control and has a plan. I choose to rest in my mind and heart, knowing that my worrying and wondering will bring me nothing but more frustration. And I choose to hope that my agonizing wait will speak to someone and maybe tomorrow when God has shown up and taken care of everything like He always does, and I look like a jerk for complaining today, someone will see the glory of God in all of this and trust Him more.


Two kinds of grace???

It has been a long time coming. Grace has been on my mind and I have asked people everywhere: What is grace to you? How do you define it? How has it changed your life?

Through my research, I stumbled upon the catholic teaching of grace. According to their teaching, there is both common grace ("For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike."-Matt 5:45) and actual, or saving, grace ("For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God."- Eph 2:8), which is unique to those who (through the conviction of the Holy Spirit) come to a place that they receive it personally.

Their claims lead into some teachings that I personally do not agree with, but I can agree with the idea that we are each always being extended some measure of grace, even if we do not choose to abide in it.

But let me back up a little bit:

What is grace, exactly?

I received many excellent definitions recently when I asked this question on facebook. Many said "Grace is God's unmerited favor toward us." And that is what I have always been taught, as well. A few answers were very beautiful and personal examples of God's grace shown to that individual.

But one answer stuck out.

Grace is getting what we don't deserve. 

G.od's, R.iches, A.t, C.hrist's, E.xpense.

-Bill Sparks

Now, Bill is a friend of the family, but he is also a pastor, so I'm sure that he actually stole this from someone else! ;) Seriously, though...I appreciate his and all of the answers that were provided. Back to Bill's take on grace, I normally find acronyms like this to be terribly cliche and bordering on Velveeta, but in this case...I believe it accurately and appropriately sums up how most define grace.

Our pastor spoke on Sunday about leaders who warn the church against "abusing" grace, as if it were something we could run out of--its source depleted as we draw from our "grace account" until nothing remains. He challenged our church to stop looking at grace as if it were something that we withdraw from only when we are bankrupt, but instead see it as something that God adds to our lives no matter where we stand or what we have done or how much we have already been given. No matter how many times we have received grace, we will continue to receive it.

If we are breathing, we're being shown grace.

So how can grace be abused? If we are living our lives by grace, we are living in God's Riches At Christ's Expense. His riches fulfill our every need. His riches are good, perfect, healthy, and bring glory and honor to His name! We can't abuse that! If we are seeking to fulfill our needs outside of that, then we are not living by grace. If we say, "God will forgive me if I...", that is not living by grace!

That is religion.

Think about it. If I walk in grace, my focus is on Christ's expense and example. I am motivated by the price that He. Already. Paid. I can do nothing to acquire that grace, because it is mine if I am His. So the blessings flow and my motivation is to live out of a heart of gratitude for what He has done for me--apart from what I have done to myself. It is truly unconditional.

But if I choose to sin, believing that God will forgive me afterward and all will be well, I do not believe that God's riches are mine already. I believe that what I want or need in that moment must come from what I think is best and that it will fulfill me. And ultimately, I believe that He will not.

Um...doubt, unbelief, mistrust, anxiety, self-sufficiency, idolatry, entitlement. These are not the basis for a healthy relationship.

And yet...grace keeps on giving.

Imagine the possibilities if we were to spend our energy enjoying that grace and extending that grace to others instead of seeking out riches through inadequate means.

We were made for relationship with God. Again and again, He extends His hand to us. Within that hand He holds riches and wonders beyond anything we could imagine. But like a prince who abdicates his throne to buy a ship and become a pirate, we look at God's hand, then look back down and continue digging around in the dirt, looking for something--anything-- to satisfy our longings.

And yet...He continues to extend that hand until we choose to take it.

Going back to the beginning of the blog. Do you really want to settle for a grace that is "common" to all? Or do you want grace that is personal, relational...meeting your needs above and beyond what you could have hoped for?

"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." --John 1:16