The path we carve for grace often leaves damage along the way. Tuesday afternoon. It’s the first day back at work after a long Memorial Day weekend. I’m still adjusting to a commute after working from home the last 5 years. We just sold our house and are currently living with a family member while a new house is being built. To further extend the day, a post-work Publix trip is necessary for Keto-friendly “fat bombs.” You know, necessary stuff. Eager to get home, I park, take a deep breath to recharge myself, and look up at the newly-peeking sun. When I finally find the vegan, all natural, no sugar added, Non-GMO certified dark chocolate chips, the bottom drops out of the sky. I can hear it from inside the store.
I pull my debit card from my iPhone case to pay at the self checkout and then make my way outside to assess my plan. Realizing it wasn’t going to let up as fast as I wanted to get home, I make a run for it. By the time I make it to my car, I am drenched from head to toe. All my hair product rolled onto my button down, my Clark’s like a mud puddle, my slim, stretch khakis a completely different shade of brown. I found myself shaking off a deep desire to just curse repeatedly out of frustration. “How could my wife ask me to do this!” “This stuff is stupid!” You know what I did instead of pursue that though? I attempted to build myself up. You know how I did it? Why none other than my old friend, comparison. I thought about my current neighbor that lost his leg in a car accident and said to myself, “Sheesh..at least I don’t have it that bad.”
Have you been there before? A quick dash to build yourself back up that turns into a reminder of how much better you have it than someone else? If you have, perhaps that isn’t the best way to reach the best outcome for all involved.
I hope you picked up on my privileged lifestyle. I wear fashionable clothes to a job where I can speak encouragement and improvement into people in an air conditioned building that pays me enough to eat all these weird foods. I know people who work extremely demanding mental and physical jobs that don’t pay them enough to have their own car. The people building my house are so talented and skilled, but they aren’t sure where their financial security will come from. They rely on people building houses and travel all over to obtain that, yet here I am complaining about my temporary commute to a dreamy job for me. That’s not the direction I want to take here though. I’m not going to share the old beaten advice of practicing gratitude. See I think that is just the problem.
No matter how good my job is, no matter how much weird food or trips I can pay for, I am still incomplete. I am still looking for something.
We need a new way to build ourselves up without comparing fortunes or tearing others down. Yes, if all we can think of others is their misfortune, that is tearing them down by failing to see hope through them. We shouldn’t limit people, and whether we realize it or not, we are really limiting ourselves with a deep-rooted mentality of “I should be better than XYZ.”If this was truly the goal, just to one-up someone, how do you imagine life would be? If you had no other goal or purpose, do you imagine yourself content there? What we are all really looking for is much deeper than accomplishment, it is much deeper than acknowledgement, and much deeper than convenience or power. What we seek is grace.
Let’s think back to the situation. I’m in the car, soaking wet, feeling like I just wasted all this effort for something non-essential, and a need comes up. The need? I need an outlet for this anger! What did I do? What do we all do? We take matters into our own hands. I did this by lifting myself above another man through what is likely his biggest hurdle in life. What I really needed was grace for being angry. Our moments happen so quickly we fail to see what is actually happening in sequence. My spirit knows anger is not fruitful per James 1:20. I needed grace, forgiveness in that moment and to reset. Instead of being patient and connecting with what my spirit really needed, I just jumped and did the first thing I thought would spark some positive energy. Grace and forgiveness are of love, and in this moment I was not giving love, yet I was expecting it. The need for grace is all the way around moments like these.
This is a perfect example of what happens when we are not connected to the vine. “The vine” is described by Jesus in John 15:5. He says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” What Jesus means here is that you will not produce fruit apart from him, “him” being his ways, his character. His character is what we embody through the spirit that was given to us as a helper when Jesus went to be seated with God in Heaven. (John 16:7) This spirit is our advocate that helps us carry out the great commandments Jesus gave us in Matthew 22:37-40 to love God and love others. Love is a fruit of the spirit as found in Galatians 5:22.
Let’s think of some other ways this is applicable. Another that comes to mind but is of the same spirit is when we compare our shortcomings to another. In low times of guilt I have thought to myself how my mistakes were not as great as others. Here again, this thinking never changed anything. It never made me feel better. Whether we are working through anger or guilt, we will never get what we truly seek by taking matters into our own hands.
So what shall we do then? I can’t just pop the bubble and leave you hanging, though I’m sure you are already on your way to a better method. If we can’t take matters into our own hands by mentally placing ourselves above others, what we have left is submission. We must humbly focus on the good work that Jesus did for us. More than that, we must focus on the purpose of that and submit our mind to it. He did what he did so we would have that grace we so desperately need. He knew we needed grace so we could forgive and continue His work right here on Earth. Right where you are. He knew we needed forgiveness so we could love. So we focus on Jesus; we focus on that grace. When we focus on this grace, this perfect love, we realize there is no reason to prop ourselves up at the expense of others. There is no reason to separate ourselves from the vine and we know nothing will come of that. Submission is a place of humility, of acceptance. It commands our mind to be still and to acknowledge a work that was done for us is greater than we earned. So let yourself be angry, but go seek your own grace for that without involving others. It is a matter of your own heart, and others cannot fill what only the vine can.
You are loved.