Last week, I saw a friend that I hadn’t seen for a long time. They had been through significant change in their life, which is their story to tell and not mine. Suffice it to say that she had walked into a place where not everyone understood what she was doing, or why. She seized the graceful way that comes in times of transformation and trial.
You’ve been to that place, yes? When you have to make a choice and take a turn that doesn’t make sense to those around you?
The place where you know the true temperature of your relationship, because you see the vital signs every morning. You act to create boundaries and space and there are cries of “Why?” or “What were you thinking?”
A space where your inner world is crying, pushing, screeching into the void. A stream of anxiety and depression you have kept at bay for years now flows freely. You choose healthy patterns, you choose a therapist, and you decide to take a medication that brings life to level.
My friend gave her life to the world, and then found that it wasn’t the life she had expected. As things changed, as she changed, protest and even exile roared.
Funny thing: grace cannot be tamed.
The curious thing about the grace of the Christian faith is that the word “grace” isn’t found on the lips of Jesus. Throughout the grist and sweat Gospels, we never find Jesus talking about grace. An easy explanation is that he didn’t need to mention it. Instead, his actions and words exploded like chaos theory into an aching, wounded world.
Jesus didn’t need to talk about grace because he was grace in motion.
Then of course it becomes simple to see that grace is untamed. The grace in Jesus chases from a marginalized couple of refugees in Egypt to an astonishing boy engaging scholars in midrash in the Temple.
Grace moves from baptismal waters and the sacredness of synagogue to the homes of lepers and the company of those who chose a questionable life to try and pay the bills.
In an epic sweep, grace then moves Jesus to death. Despite anguish of pain and abandonment of comfort, death is the grace-note sounded above them all. Inexplicable. A grace that reaches beyond death is the only force that can jar our drowsy humanity.
Grace cannot be tamed.
To be honest, writing this post makes me a bit nervous because I’d rather that grace be domesticated. A “house-cat grace” softly purring around the legs of the table, waiting for me rather than running ahead and calling me forward.We’re fine with grace being untamed when we are the recipients. When we are the observers or the reviewers, however, things are different. In grace distribution we cringe when those whom we find dubious unwrap the gift of grace themselves.
Though we sing about an amazing grace that “saved a wretch like me,” apparently my own self-observed wretchedness is the ceiling and beyond that grace cannot reach.
The reason we’d like to tame grace – for others, of course, not for ourselves – is because we feel a need to control it.
A grace that is truly unbounded creates an unmanageable situation. A loss of discernable categories and boundaries for grace causes us to feel unstable. Our knees wobble at the sight of redemption in fields of blood and bone.
This control is natural, of course. We are always trying to make sense of our world. Even in the theological theorem put forth by Paul, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith…” we find ways to define “faith” and “grace” and “saved.”
The Language of the Graceful
We know good and well what those words mean, not strictly from a lexicon but from our lives. Grace is something we have witnessed and experienced. Salvation is a sensed reality, not just an abstract concept. Faith comes and goes but we bear it when it comes near.
They are neither controlled nor controllable because at the bottom they are not ours to administrate.
To follow Jesus is to immerse ourselves in this flow of untamed grace. It is either immersion or abstinence – there is no other grace that can form our souls.
Here’s the secret, as far as I know: Grace cannot be tamed because the God who thought it up cannot be tamed either.
What does it mean today to live as if grace transcends boundaries and control mechanisms? If grace is truly untamable, why do we attempt to control it?
What would life look like if we immersed ourselves in the graceful life of Jesus – right where we are?