I stepped into a sufficient amount of new experiences our first few months in Mexico: I nearly flunked out of language school — during the entrance exam; I learned to feel the same way about a clutch as I do vegetables (hate it, but need it), culpa and pulpo are not synonyms, and not all green salsas are created equal. I also learned that at the bottom of all my reluctance over coming here was really reluctance about how much “say” Grace had in my life.
For the better part of a year before we moved, I tried to stiff-arm what was happening. I’ve since learned I wasn’t stiff-arming my passionate wife or an organization both committed to this world turning a much needed corner. I was coming up against the momentum of a sovereign Storyteller, whose passion for His Story — for Shalom — will one day cover the cosmos like the waters cover the sea. And the momentum of this story, the plot, is the momentum of Grace.
Grace is great, but it’s dangerous. It’s scary.
Even death looked at grace and said, “You’re too much for me.” So there I was, little ol’ me trying to push against a tsunami of grace.
Grace is stubborn, like a hurricane.
You can board up the windows of your heart and stack sandbags around your story, but it’s a losing battle. Grace will out stubborn you, every time. When grace comes and we hear the shutters of our stories crack against the walls of our hearts, our knee-jerk reaction is to hide. We scramble to grab whatever vestiges of our personal narratives we can salvage and batten down the hatches. But what sounds devastating and scary and brutal isn’t the sound of destruction. It’s the sound of a new story.
But Grace isn’t a bully. It’s as stubborn as a hurricane, but it’s as careful, intimate, and personal as a good storyteller.
At first, it seems like it has no regard for your dreams or desires. Like an arrogant actor, it seems to shove your carefully crafted script back in your face. But Grace isn’t an actor in your little narrative; it’s the director. And your script isn’t being shoved back at you. Rather, you’re being offered a part and invitation into a story not less than yours, but so much bigger. It’s a story you may know nothing about, but you’ve always wanted. It’s a story more ancient than the cosmos and more new than morning dew. It’s a story that knows the depths of human suffering and the astronomical heights of joy. It’s a story as everyday as grocery shopping and as outrageous as climbing Everest. It’s a story that knows the pangs of division, racism, and human brutality, but glories in reconciliation and resurrection. It knows the powerful may appear to have all the cards, but the meek shall inherit the earth. It’s a scary, foolish, subversive story, and is full of surprises.
I’ve seen Grace take a young boy isolated in hardened, confused fear and change him into a team player on the soccer field. I’ve seen grace use bunk-beds to remind a mom her kids have a Father who cares for and sees them. I’ve seen Grace take a sewing class and make it ground zero of empowerment and dreaming in an impoverished community. I’ve seen Grace take a five year old’s ashamed, rotten smile and give him the biggest set of chompers you’ll ever see. I’ve seen Grace give a young girl new life in Christ the same week she welcomed a new baby brother. I’ve seen a young boy with special needs have the best day of his life carting around a stalk of plantains. I’ve seen grace transform a young girl from someone who thought she’d never get through high school to someone who was signing up for her first university class. That’s a tip of the iceberg from my two cent vantage point after a meager eight months. Grace scares us from the stories we want, and surprises us with stories we could never ask for, nor imagine.
Grace was here long before we were and Grace will be here long after we’re gone.
Truth is that Grace surprises people everywhere everyday. And these surprising narrative twists happen in-between the hard and dark plot points. But that is the point. Grace isn’t writing a clean, tidy, white-washed, quarantined story that’ll drop out of the sky one day. It’s an inside job. The story of Grace is mysterious and transcendent, but it knows the dust of the earth. Grace knows a world where life, justice, and beauty flourish all the live long day, and Grace put on flesh to bring it here. Grace came from the extravagance of Heaven into the everydayness of Earth. Grace knows the depth of a tomb so we can know the heights of the Kingdom.
Grace saves because Grace was sent. And today, Grace saves because Grace sends.
So, wherever Grace sends you today — a college classroom, an office, a newborn’s crib, a bus stop, a funeral, a doctor’s office, a community center, a hard conversation, an urban elementary school, a church building, a grocery store, a nursing home know this: Grace will not send you where it will not surprise you.
And that’s good news.