A couple of you have heard a few of the highlights (or lowlights) of my day. I won’t reprise them here. In summary, for a little while this was looking like a horrible, no good, very bad day. Then I took a nap and things got better. (I think sometimes naps are a manifestation of grace.)
Anyway, in the class I’m taking at church on Sunday mornings, we’re reading Jim Smith’s book The Good and Beautiful Life (which I recommend, by the way). We’ve been discussing the Sermon on the Mount, and how Jesus isn’t trying to get us to be uptight perfectionists (that hits a little too close to home). Instead, he’s telling us that it’s not so much whether you follow the rules externally but whether your heart is right.
This morning, one of my classmates commented on how hard it is to change your heart. You can go through the motions, he pointed out, but, if you don’t really want to be doing ‘the right thing,’ it doesn’t really do much good. So what’s the point of turning the other cheek or going the second mile if we don’t want to do it?
A couple of my classmates pointed out that often changing our behavior helps to change our hearts—that acting “as if” often helps to make it so. This is true, at least in my life; I’ve found gradual changes in my heart when I make an effort to change my behavior.
But I don’t think just acting will ever force a real change. That’s why we need grace.
One of my favorite quotes (by Teresa of Avila, I believe) goes something like this: “God, I don’t love you. I don’t even want to love you. But I want to want to love you.”
So often that is true in my life. I often don’t do what I think I should do. I don’t even want to do it. But I want to want to. And, gradually, God changes me.
I’ve finally forgiven a person I’ve been trying to forgive for years. (Well, half trying, anyway. Really, deep down, I was enjoying holding onto that grudge.) It’s not as if the wound they gave me doesn’t still hurt at times or as if I don’t still sometimes feel anger toward them. But I’ve chosen to forgive them, and I’m beginning to really desire good things for them.
But I couldn’t (and can’t) do it on my own; it’s only God’s grace that gives me grace to extend to anyone else.
Earlier today, I wasn’t feeling like giving much grace to anyone—myself included. But, in the midst of that, I remembered whose I am and how much I am loved.
In many ways, “Come, Thou Fount” could be the theme song for my life. (I’m listening to it again now, for something like the 4th time in the last 30 minutes.) The last verse begins with these words:
Oh, to grace how great a debtorThis is my prayer tonight.
Daily I'm constrained to be.
Let thy grace now, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee.