By Kelly Carr
Grace. It’s a word I’d heard for years without it having much impact in my brain or on my heart. Grace was part of the title of a famous old hymn. Grace was the prayer that was said before a meal. Grace was some church word I heard in sermons.
Later I recognized that this small word had a greater significance to Christianity, but I struggled to grasp it.
Finally, it clicked. The right words explained by someone finally came together, and a bit of light was shed on grace. Through his Word and through others’ words, God’s Spirit spoke, and I recognized that grace was the most beautiful gift imaginable.
Grace enfolds Jesus’ 33 years of perfection on earth plus his wretchedly painful death plus his miraculous, hope-filled resurrection. All of these sacrifices were made in order to offer us forgiveness and salvation.
But it started way before then. God’s grace came on the scene as soon as Adam and Eve began to sin. Grace was visible when God handcrafted the hides of animals into clothing for his sad, sinful, newly aware creations who just realized they were naked.
And that’s where we stand before God today—completely visible in all our victories and vices and vulnerabilities. We have nothing on our own but what was given by his hand. Grace.
One of my favorite descriptions of grace comes from the song “Grace” by U2 on their album All That You Can’t Leave Behind. They sing, “Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.” Doesn’t that sum up God’s grace? Somehow he takes the ugliness of our sin and still makes beautiful things in spite of it, in spite of us.
• Grace was beautiful when family members of missionaries Jim Elliot and Nate Saint went back to share the redemption message of Jesus with the very tribe who murdered their loved ones.
• Grace was beautiful when Yoshiko Uchida created watercolor drawings, offering hope and strength to Japanese Americans during World War II while she and her family were detained in a Utah internment camp.
• Grace was beautiful when Nelson Mandela chose not to harbor bitterness after 27 years in prison but instead helped end apartheid and unite South Africa.
• Grace was beautiful when Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout forgave her abusive Somali captors and began raising money to make Somalia a better place for women.
• Grace was beautiful when Jesus offered salvation to the very people whose hands nailed him to the cross.
Grace is still a concept I wrestle with. Wrapping my mind around something so large is always a bit baffling. At times, I crumble under the weight of emotions—humbled by God’s mercy, unworthy of his forgiveness, guilt-ridden for what it cost. At other times, all I can do is simply receive this mysterious present from the Lord without trying to understand how or why God would love me so much to offer it.
Grace. Its truth brings me to tears.