Grace in the depths

My life is a witness to vulgar grace - a grace that amazes as it offends.  A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five.  A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands, or buts.  A grace that raises bloodshot eyes to a dying thief's request - "Please, remember me" - and assures him, "You bet!"  A grace that is the pleasure of the Father, fleshed out in the carpenter Messiah, Jesus the Christ, who left His Father's side not for heaven's sake but for our sakes, yours and mine.  This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion.  It works without asking anything of us.  It's not cheap.  It's free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility.  Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover.  Grace is enough.  He is enough.  Jesus is enough.

John, the disciple Jesus loved, ended his first letter with this line: "Children, be on your guard against false gods." In other words, steer clear of any God you can comprehend.  Abba's love cannot be comprehended.  I'll say it again: Abba's love cannot be comprehended.

  - Brennan Manning in his memoir and final book, “All is Grace

Simon's diagnosis of an innocent death has plunged me to the depths of thought and sorrow.  Yet I know I haven’t reached the bottom quite yet.  I am still grateful.  I am grateful because during my descent to the depths, my ego has been stripped away and now I can see past myself to truly feel God's love.  Now what stands in front of me is grief and a feeling of undeserved hope.  The hope I have is audacious - or even "vulgar," to steal Manning’s term.  It is ridiculous and naive to have hope...this is a fairy tale that men shouldn't pursue in times of suffering.  Now, in the ego-less depths, I see that my Father loves me throughout and in spite of my continuous failings.  This is grace and the radical acceptance I speak of so often but fail to fully comprehend.  I fully understand that the acceptance of his love and grace is fulfilled by allowing it to transform us.  As each day brings us closer to meeting Simon, either living or not, I feel a greater embrace from "Abba" (Aramaic for "father" or "daddy").  The reality that God had to watch his son die only helps me know him better.  This season of Lent is more meaningful than ever as I reflect on the love God showed all of us with the sacrifice of his son - so we all might feel this vulgar grace!  My prayer is that anyone who knows Simon's story can also understand this grace better than they did before we knew him.  Mumford & Son's song "Roll Away Your Stone" mirrors this prayer for me today.  

It seems all my bridges have been burnt
But you say that's exactly how this grace thing works.
It's not the long walk home that will change this heart
But the welcome I receive with every start
Stars hide your fires
These here are my desires
And I will give them up to you this time around
And so I'll be found
With my stake stuck in this ground
Marking the territory of this newly impassioned soul


p.s. I know Mumford (specifically Marcus Mumford) may not align with all of my theological and religious views, but his lyrics reveal the unmistakable soul of a seeker of Christ - so I don't care.


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