Perhaps because of the Women’s Bible Study (BS) this month on Romans, I’ve been thinking so much about the basics of our faith – the experience and language of grace. It’s one of those words that has become so strangely commonplace in my ministry and journey that I realized I couldn’t really remember how to speak of it…and barely feel it sometimes. But, I’ve come up with a working definition to engage here:
the unexpected extension of love and life.
Of course, there’s stuff about unmerited, undeserved favor, and that day with the ladies we talked about it being a perspective that “changes the game,” reconciliation, opposite of judgment, and something that produces hope, joy, etc. I want to tease out a lot more during these next whatever weeks. Amazingly, the BS experience has made me somehow more sensitive to it…or maybe a better word would be hungry for it everywhere…
So one place I’m encountering/engaging it is in my reading…almost as if periodically God places words and images purposefully in front of me like neon signs…Earlier, I mentioned picking up this Odd and Wondrous Calling (give to me by A- through Jay Bowers) and wanting to blog some stories and experiences in response to the reading. I know for certain grace is a necessity to a minister’s life…like prayer, communion, and…sleep (or Sabbath :o), and it is a thread throughout this book. I loved the first chapter, “Minute 54,” and the reminder of the need for “holy imagination” to [my paraphrase here and there]:
“…remember a call, to imagine one, not in the sense that the call is an illusion created by us, but when we imagine, we see what we do not know; we see the possibilities God has for us,” even in the midst of those long, bizarre meetings that spiral down into a passionate discussion about what cheese to use for chili mac, as Lillian puts it. The holy imagination helps us to be open and prepared for those moments of grace to break through into our narrow realities, “to find majesty in the ordinary, mystery in the concrete, love in the midst of feuding, a ministry of tending to the details in the midst of grated cheese.” But there was a slight break in the focused conversation, and someone offered a seemingly innocuous sentiment, “I’d hate to be homeless on a cold night like this,” and for a moment writes Daniel, “everyone is silent…there was that moment when we were all quiet and we could hear each other breathe, and we could hear who had a cold, and who was a runner, and who was choked up.”
Here the affirmation is that grace enters in when our holy imagination is activated by God’s Holy Spirit and our intentional openness…seemingly from nowhere swooping in as if a rush of fire…but gently enough to be just a small statement and still disarming enough to quiet everything in a room…and powerful enough that it ushers in a taste of eternity and something beyond rendering the heavy curtains separating my small reality and that other-world obsolete.
I live for these moments, and need them to fuel my ministry and my faith…these shavings of grace…