Having been a Christian for many years, I always skipped the greeting and farewell verses of Paul, dismissing them as trivial and of no consequence – just niceties in letter writing. Especially when he keeps mentioning the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
…because I never quite understood grace.
Like most believers, I understood and experienced grace at conversion, being presented with the Gospel of salvation. After that initial big bang, everything just ran on performance and maintenance of ‘good’ Christian living.
I must have been quite tired in my soul
…because I distinctly asked God What is grace? How is it I don’t seem to know it intimately as a comfort and boon as Your word says it is?
This happened one late night as I alighted from the feeder bus and walked to cross the road, my flat being a 2-minute walk away.
The Lord then began to speak and ask me some pertinent questions. Did I experience grace growing up? Thinking of my late disciplinary grandmother and strict father, I answered, No, I don’t think so.
Did you experience grace in school?Thinking of my talkative nature, forgetfulness, and occasional misunderstandings with school authority, No.
What about National Service in your 2 and a half years in the army?What?!! Are you joking, Lord? Of course not!
What about your work life then? I thought of former unsympathetic bosses and what seemed at times unreasonable workload. If there was, I can’t even remember!
So how can you begin to understand grace when you seldom experienced it in your life?came God’s reply. I was stunned!
Like the line from Amazing Grace – “I was blind but now I see” – the revelation hit me like a ton of bricks within a minute’s walk from the bus stop. By the time I reached my flat in another minute, I told the Lord, Then You must show me what grace is. I just don’t get it besides the salvation message. I can’t grasp what “My grace is sufficient for you” means.
Gradually I did. As I look back at my past life, there were two distinct acts of grace of my strict father, unconditional love from my mother, and several instances when God intervened into my circumstances.
I was merely not cognisant of them then. So they didn’t consciously form any memory bank of grace that I could draw upon. So I had to petition God: Can You show me what grace is from now on? I need to know as I realise it’s essential to my daily walk with You.
And God did.
For the last ten years I have began to appreciate grace as I’m conscious of it now whenever it appears, in whatever form. “Unmerited favour” no longer is a cognitive term. My grace memory bank is now filing up – my seminary dean’s unexpected kindness, my miraculous bounce back from death, my career journey, ‘coincidences’ too many to ruminate, etc.
On a cognitive level, it’s a given in psychology that what we don’t experience or are unaware in our life – especially in our growing up years – makes us unable to relate it later in life when we are faced with it. It’s like trying to explain colours to a man blind from birth. He just doesn’t see, literally and figuratively.
So look back and begin to ponder. You will be surprised to find instances of grace in your life.
I have. For grace is no longer cognitive, a mere word. It has become affective, the Word made flesh. Jesus, full of grace, the embodiment of grace who dwelt among us, who now dwells in me …and yes, I now read the greetings and farewell verses of Paul with great appreciation..