Thursday, July 04, 2013

Grace Interrupts

(this is my first post for the month of July for the Society for Christian Psychology).

If we are honest about our experience with God, we have to admit that God sometimes does things we would not expect or want. In fact, if you walk with God long enough he will disappoint and annoy you. He will come in ways we don’t expect, upsetting plans, dashing expectations and interrupting schedules. Sometimes these interruptions can be received as grace, an invitation to enter a different kind of life; but in order to be received in this way it requires a different kind of seeing and hearing. I often miss these opportunities, much to my dismay.

Today, God came for me in the form of a soaking rainstorm. I was in the middle of doing penance to feel better about myself (in the form of exercise to appease guilt for a couple of “bad food days”) and God showed up and messed everything up, turning over the tables of my schemes and plans for self-improvement.

As rain soaked through my clothes, cutting short my walk, I felt annoyed and frustrated. Didn’t God know I had important penance to perform? How else was I supposed to feel better about myself and appease the guilt of making bad food choices? (It’s ok to laugh here).

Though I was feeling some frustration with the interrupting rain, experience has taught me to wonder, to look for symbols, to be curious - I wondered if there might be something else going on. As the rain fell and saturated my clothes and the world around me, I tried to become aware of God and what he might be saying. I tried to let go of my expectations and to really look and listen. I had been praying for help in writing this blog (feeling stuck in a lack of inspiration) and I wondered if this rainstorm had something to do with answering that prayer. I thought of being inundated with grace in spite of my efforts (or lack thereof), for he is that type of God. I thought of Matthew 5:45, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (ESV). I noticed that even though I was being soaked, there was a entire world outside of me that was drinking this in as well. I was part of something bigger. Even though I was experiencing saturation, I was one among many pieces of creation drinking in this gift from above. There was a larger story being told, a larger world being cared for. This helped me let go of my narrow agenda and embrace whatever God was doing.

I thought further of all the times I’ve been interrupted recently and how I typically respond - in frustration and anger, often with a sense of an offended ego. How dare they (this person, this circumstance) violate my will?? I am an important person doing important things!! Again, laughter is very appropriate here, because there is obvious absurdity to behold.

Eventually, I couldn’t help but laugh at the insanity of grace. Grace had met me in ways I never would have guessed or even wanted. This made it free of my control and manipulation (since I could never make it happen or keep or sustain it), which helped me receive it without condition. In this work of giving and receiving I could hear the Father’s laughter, his rejoicing in me and in giving me good things (this was another answer to prayer - “let me hear your rejoicing, Lord” - Zeph 3:17).

God’s laughter of grace enabled me to laugh. There I was, drenched to the skin, chuckling about it all. Laughter is a sign that we are in touch with the irony of living in a world of extremes, order and disorder, beauty and affliction, dignity and shame. It is an essential element to earthy spirituality, a life lived before God fully aware of surrounding conditions. As Dallas Willard reminds us,

“[Our] condition is one of labor, glory, dust, and death. It is one of constant incongruity between human dreams and dignity, on the one hand, and human realities, on the other. We are incarnate and finite beings, trailing clouds of overaspiration and ragged incompleteness. When our ‘spirituality’ disconnects from the natural contexts and relationships that are always there nevertheless, one of the chief signs of what is happening is that we lose our ability to laugh. Laughter is the automatic human response to incongruity, and incongruity is never lacking on the human scene, no matter how far advanced we may be into the kingdom. It is indelibly imprinted in our finitude” (Divine Conspiracy, 238).

In the soaking rain I see the Father’s care for me - saturating, surrounding, enveloping, but not necessarily comforting or clarifying. I didn’t feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but I could feel his joy, receive his grace, and his life. His grace is of such a kind that it can sometimes envelop at the same time as annoy. He comes, yet again, in his own way and in his own time. I am reminded of the words of the wise old beaver from Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe who declared to the children, “Safe? . . . Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you” (86).

Pay attention the next time something goes wrong. It just might be God sending another annoying love note, inviting you to pull aside and meet with Him.


gphudson said...

I've just discovered your blog. Thanks for this post, I can very much identify with it.

Scott said...

welcome, sir! Peace to you.