What happened to our Grace?
In a recent discussion with my wife, the topic of Grace arose. We grant it to people when we first meet them, but over time, our ability to do so seems to fade, particularly when we perceive a lack of reciprocity. Often with those close to us, our ability to accept and forgive gradually decreases. The wrinkles in our personalities deepen. The fault-lines widen. Our ability to overlook flaws lessens.
Grace (the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings) is the one thing we receive without the expectation of payback. It is unequivocal and undeserved. It is what redeems us as fallen beings. We cannot always help the displays of our lesser selves, but it matters not. We are forgiven and we are (by the Grace of God) allowed to begin each day anew. I sometimes wonder if He weren’t so forgiving (and gave us a bit more of a “come-up’ns”) whether we wouldn’t learn our lesson and not be so obstinate in our relationships.
Perhaps it is for this reason that we place such high expectations on others. We have received Grace and God has accepted us for who we are. We now “expect” the same from others. After all, if it’s good enough for Him, it ought to be good enough for everybody. In doing so, we mistake His gift with the perception that we are actually “OK.” While I am not sure (He has not given me any particular insight), I don’t believe any of us are truly OK (marginally acceptable perhaps).
So, if we are not “OK,” why do we expect others to be? Moreover, why do we expect others to see us in the rosy light we (undeservedly) shine upon ourselves? Perhaps it is because in the nature of things this is who we are. It is what makes us “human” and what makes us flawed. But weren’t we made in His image? Doesn’t, some of that perfection still remain (or so we convince ourselves is the case)? Some of us (finger pointed directly at myself) may feel there is more than a bit of Him that rubbed off. Hence…”I’m OK!”
This is hubris. It is what we got for our folly. Right from the beginning (Remember the apple incident?), we have striven to be more God-like. Oh, we didn’t want all that benevolent stuff, we really wanted the knowledge and power part. We just mucked it up. Not only did we ended up with imperfect knowledge of what we could be, we lack the ability to get there. So, we take the easier route of just imagining ourselves to better than we are rather than putting in the hard work it takes to achieve it.
Of course, all of this might be nonsense. Perhaps it’s just genetics. Our DNA makes us narcissistic as well as benevolent. Are we simply biologically predisposed to be unkind and inappropriate. Actually, this would be an easier situation. “It’s not me, it’s genetics!” (By the way, I have actually used that excuse.) To some degree it absolves us of the need to “try.” To try to be more forgiving. To try to be less self-centered. In essence, to try to be better than we think we can be.
This is the really tough part. It is difficult because it requires us to see ourselves not as the heroic figures we desire to find in the mirror, but as the disheveled and corrupt people we are. And not just that we are depraved (a harsh, but appropriate term), but because we have the ability (if we chose to exercise it) to change ourselves. We are not preordained to be wicked. Within the constraints of who God has made us to be, we have the choice to become better or worse than we are today. I wish that I could say that I have always chosen the former.
I do (mostly) choose to “try.” I will fail (as do we all). Unfortunately, in that regard “trying” looks a whole lot like not trying. As in Groundhog Day, the ever-repeating saga of the same thing without tangible difference can be perceived as a lack of progress rather than an honest attempt at improvement. None-the-less, I hope to wake up tomorrow and try again.
Like Sisyphus, my rock will inevitably roll back down to the bottom of the hill. It is my choice whether I trod down and heft it again. I believe that is what God designed me to do. I can only pray that I don’t disappoint.