One of the best things about being in the military are the fun weekend marriage retreats. A few years back my soldier and I went to a beautiful resort in Tucson, AZ, with a handful of his fellow soldiers and their spouses. Over the course of the weekend, the topic came up of things our significant others do to annoy us. From leaving the toilet seat up to playing video games to being a slob and never having dinner on the table in time, couples were throwing each other’s flaws out there for all to see.
Thankfully, my husband and I have been together long enough to know our marriage is stronger when we keep our mouths shut. So he didn’t out me on never refilling the toilet paper roll or leaving my books piled around the house, even though I know it drives him crazy. We were all given just enough rope to hang ourselves before the chaplain made his point. He told a story of a couple where the man was leaving his piles of newspapers all around the house to the exhaustion of his wife.
Then one day he died, and she discovered the thing she missed most was his pile of newspapers.
In our 15-plus years of marriage, we’ve learned to look past the outward flaws we each have and instead focus on the intent or lack of intent. Marriage is the first place I really began to discover messy grace.
When Grace settles in, it pours out like Thanksgiving gravy.
It flows in between the crumbs on the table and the pine-cone turkey decorations.
It fills the kitchen sink and splashes onto the floor.
It coats all the mess in a beauty that cannot be denied.”
– Elizabeth Mattick
Yes, I know it is the beginning of the year, and Thanksgiving is far from your mind but I love the imagery this evokes. Grace isn’t clean and tidy, it’s messy and beautiful. It makes no sense, it is complex and it is simple.
Grace meets us in the mundane of life. We find it in the beauty of our children’s eyes, in the simple pleasure of picnics and potlucks. But it also meets us in the suffering. We hear it in our grief of a life gone too soon, in the darkness of night as we wrestle with doubt, in the complexity of trusting God’s promises are as good tomorrow as they were yesterday.
Do you know the story of Jonah and the whale? Jonah was willing to accept God’s grace in his own life. God’s grace was good enough for him. He accepted it in the belly of the fish and in the shade of the vine, but he did not have the stomach to watch the salvation of men, women and children.
I have been guilty of having a heart like Jonah’s. I’ve accepted God’s forgiveness for my own faults but have fallen into gossip and complaint at the fault of others. Sometimes we share the same fault, yet it is easier to acknowledge the flaw in their life then in my own. But God reaches down to me and gently nudges me in the direction of His grace, reminding me that it covers all.
Then there are those days I am so wrapped up in my own self-pity and defeat I can easily see God’s grace in others, how He redeems them in their brokenness and pulls beauty from the ashes, but cannot find even a glimmer in my own life.
Grace and I are on a complex journey. I know I’m not alone as I wrestle to hold in balance guilt, grace, sin and forgiveness.
I am grateful for the wonder that is God, for both the complexity and simplicity of grace. I am thankful that today I am not who I will be tomorrow and that I am not who I was yesterday.