Everybody is talking about grace these days. Where was it before? I don’t know that answer to that one, but what is grace, anyway? The Merriam Webster seems a bit terse to me as it tries to accommodate this big word, and yet it is probably adequate for its purposes. My etymology is this. It comes from the Latin word ‘gratia’, which means ‘thankfulness’. Now change the word. Treat each other with thankfulness. Accept thankfulness when it is extended to you. Can we go wrong when we are thankful? I must confess I have spent some time yesterday and today being something less than thankful. I’ll probably do it tomorrow. I really would like to set someone right, but all the words running through my head feel like words that will alienate, rather than show grace, so I haven’t said anything. Another response is a cold shoulder. Less than gracious, ugh! So if neither of my options is setting someone straight or ignoring them, what to do? Write a blog about grace!!!! Actually, I have had occasion to encourage my adult children to treat each other with grace . You can’t miss AND you’re probably going to need it yourself one day and you will be glad that you are being gracious now. So instead of saying what normally runs through my head I will tell you of a little grace I have experienced and share it with you.
I probably learned more about communicating teaching middle schoolers than anything else, including having my own. I really did ask God to show me the way into their tender hearts because I knew so well what it meant to miss that connection. I had one little girl who was very subtly naughty. But she had it all over her face, and I knew there were things that I needed to address with her. I knew that saying, “My dear, your grades are really bad and your lack of attention in class will get you nowhere. What are you going to do about it? ” would probably end up in silence and shrugs. I decided to ask a question and I put myself in the place of responsibility and said “What can I do to help?” She opened up her sinful little heart and let out a lot of issues that really needed dealing with. And we began to. I will never forget it.
Another thing. One summer I took a course on how to tutor kids with learning disabilities. It was so enlightening. It is so easy to think that everybody ought to work the same way, but God has made us with incredible variety, and yet in types. One day the teacher gave us a list of words and told us to tell why the words were spelled correctly. I said, “I don’t know. I just always could.” (Any misspellings are typos) . It’s so easy to say “We did ________ in school” because I did it in school. I learned a lot about myself in that class and not because I would be labeled as learning disabled. I am the type that will answer quickly if I have the answer. People need to learn that they need to let others think for a few minutes, then they might have an answer, too, and wise is the teacher who creates this space. That does not usually happen in adult Sunday School!
So this is what I have to say: Next time you don’t think you agree with someone OR you have the answer on the tip of your tongue, ask them, is this what you are saying? Is this what you asking of me? before you jump on a soapbox and preach a sermon. Sometimes a lot of words just pound your point in and no one can appreciate a pounding very well. Unless they accept it with grace. But if you extend the grace, you might be surprised.