I’ve been thinking about the word grace. The word is used in many different ways and different contexts. It has many shades, hues, and textures and attempting to define it seems futile.
Some people move with grace as they dance. Some people say grace before meals. Others have exercised a grace period for a debt. We sometimes find ourselves in another’s bad graces. Some people grace others with their presence.
It’s not very often that I disagree with Webster’s definition of words. Although, there are times the definition feels dry, uninspired, and static. And yet, Webster seems to have gotten this one spot on. He lists 20 different definitions in an attempt to define the many facets to these simple five letters.
When I think about the word grace, I think about it in context of relationships both with God and with people. I consider the relationships that have extended grace to me in my times of pride, stubbornness, and ignorance. I think about times I wanted to judge, act cruelly, or be selfish and I chose to extend grace instead. I consider the uncountable ways God has shown me grace throughout my journey.
As I ponder those experiences, my soul opens itself more widely to consider how God extends grace to me. The theological definition of grace is :
1)the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God and
2)the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.
The first definition is our favorite and the one we focus on the most. It’s easy for us to see God’s grace when everything is going exactly the way we want it to. We can easily see God’s grace when a loved one survives a tragic accident or overcomes cancer. We embrace His grace when it comes in good, easy, and pleasant packages.
The second definition however, is more difficult to accept. The way that God often influences us to strengthen and transform us is through difficulty. When we lose the things we hold most dear, we don’t define that as grace. As we experience health, financial, and relational struggles, we question God’s love and grace, rather than seeing our circumstances through a filter of grace.
The reality is that it’s all grace! The categories we use to define good and bad, hard and easy, right and wrong, often block us from seeing the beauty of God. Yes, when good things happen in our lives, we can be grateful for the grace God has freely given an undeserving people. But, when we find ourselves in the middle of a storm, we can also recognize the beauty of God’s influence to strengthen and transform us.
Finding gratitude for God’s grace and influence to transform us through difficulty is not an easy or natural journey. It requires us to stretch our faith, grow our trust, and change our perspective. It is, however, part of the path that leads us to transformation.
We have to let go of old ways of defining God, we have to release our categories of good and bad, and we have to see everything as grace. His movement to transform us, regardless of our definition or category, is a beautiful grace.
How have you defined grace? How has God’s influence and grace strengthened and transformed you? How can you see God’s beautiful grace in your life today?