Friday, 15 October 2010
When I Don’t Have a Taste for Grace
It’s Monday. I wake up with a mental list of things to do. I jump out of bed. Better write these down before I forget. Last week’s needs, yesterday’s worship service are long gone and forgotten. Grace is nice, but today I’m in a hurry. I’ve got this Lord. I’ll let you know when I need you. I chug a smoothie and bolt into my day.
The sweet taste of grace seems optional when I’m doing well. Like dessert after a full meal, I can say, “No thanks” and ask the waiter to bring the check. When I’m feeling good, God’s undeserved favor seems like the icing on the cake, instead of the bread of life. And when I’m feeling fine, the sweet relief of pardon for the guilty is the farthest thing from my mind.
Moving On From Grace
I don’t realize I’m moving on from grace when I get into my car with one eye on my list and the other on my watch. All I know is that I’ve got stuff to do. It’s good stuff, too, work, errands, commitments, volunteering.
I’m sailing down the interstate when the traffic slows suddenly, then comes to a full halt. What? I’m going to be late for my doctor’s appointment. I take deep breaths as we begin to inch forward, my eyes darting back and forth from the clock to the taillights in front of me. I’m forty five minutes late and the receptionist apologizes, but the doctor has been called into surgery. I have to reschedule. He can’t see me for another month.
At this point I’m mentally rearranging my day, fighting frustration, and looking for someone to blame. Those idiot drivers! It was just a case of gawker gap! I’m ticked at the receptionist. And I’ve had to miss an important meeting at work for nothing.
That shows me. Next time I’d better read my Bible and pray before I leave home. I really messed up.
From Sweet to Bitter
I’m not the only one who had a bitter experience when she moved on from grace. In Exodus 15 we’re told the story of God’s people Israel just after they had crossed the Red Sea. They had been miraculously delivered from an enemy who should have annihilated them. They sang and danced their joy for days. Then Moses told them it was time to move on. He led them away from the Red Sea.
For three days they couldn’t find water and when they finally did, it turned out to be bitter. A perfect word, not just for their circumstance, but for their response. They didn’t remember God’s grace. They didn’t pray for God’s help. Instead they looked for someone to blame:
And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” Exodus 15:24
From Bitter to Sweet
What does God do when we forget his grace? When we don’t remember and don’t pray and grumble and blame instead? I know what I would have done. I would have lectured them at best, yelled at them at worst. I might have grudgingly given them what they needed, but with a warning about “next time…”
But God isn’t like me. He saved them again. In the absence of their praying, Moses prayed. (How like Christ is that?) Without hesitation or lecture God answered. He showed Moses a tree that was lying on its side. Moses took the tree and threw it into the water. And the water became sweet. Their thirst was slaked, and their grumbling was left unpunished.
How can we explain such a thing? Good received. Bad averted. That’s grace for sure. But who took the blame? The tree whispers the answer, which the apostle Peter takes and makes clear:
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:25
All grace was purchased by Jesus on the cross so that it could be given freely to you and me today.
I can’t move on from grace. God won’t let me. He sneaks up on me, bringing me into bitter places so he can surprise me again with the sweetness of his undeserved favor.