Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hey you, put God back in that box

Grace is something I've struggled to understand for quite some time now. I think I've always seen God in a very punitive manner. Like many people, I have grown up putting God in a box. It's more comfortable that way, you know, seeing Him in this box I built based on preconceived ideas and decorated with my skewed sense of His character. To me, He's always been the scary God waiting for me to mess up so He could put me in my place. This breaks my heart to a degree that I cannot even express.

I'm not entirely sure why I believed this. God has never dealt with me with a heavy hand. Not even when I'm so angry at Him I could quite literally spew all manner of ungodliness at Him does He spiritually whack me. I deserved it. Oh, I did, and still do I'm sure. No. He's never been that way. He's always been the gentle but firm, loving and wonderful God.

I think much of what I believe about Him has been shaped by what I've seen in my life. I'm not sure I can think of many parental figures I watched as I grew up that took the grace path of parenting. Most in my circle were extremely punitive, harshly so, and very strict. Some of them were even frighteningly strict. There was little grace. I didn't even realize what I was looking at until recently when I began to explore more deeply the idea of grace. It was all I saw and I thought it just is what it is and that's all there is. So my entire life, I have been assigning very human parenting ideals to God. I knew what grace was but could not reconcile it to Him because I did not fully see Him in that way. My box. My pretty, little box. Yet now as I struggle to understand grace, I see I had it so wrong. As He always does, He's breaking down those walls with which I tried to confine Him.

I'm seeing now that the vision I had of Him up there waiting to strike me down is so far off. If He was going to strike me down, I'd already be down. I've harbored anger towards Him for a long time. I've argued with Him, whined to Him, and told Him I didn't like these cards I've been dealt and His response has never been harsh. Sometimes there's not much of a response, or at least I haven't seen it, but it's never been harsh. Not once. He's never punished me. He has taught me and walked with me and discipled me and guided me. Some of the lessons I've learned have not been easy. Some of them have been painful. But He has never hurt me.

When I took a step back and examined this aspect of my life and realized these things it took me entirely by surprise. And now here I am, struggling to understand grace, when grace has been right in front of me my entire life. I just missed it. I was too busy waiting for the blow. The lightning. The punishment. I was blinded by my misconceptions and preconceived ideas, and started to perceive difficult things in my life as punishment or God's withholding of grace from me. Not so much the infertility. Even I know better than that. But other things that have been with me for longer, and things to come. Or rather things I was expecting to come yet never did.

I'm His strong-willed child. I admit that I'm a handful. And yet, somehow His hands are big enough, and He handles me with grace. Somehow He teaches me with a gentle leading and not the blows to the head I so deserve. Somehow He gets through my thick skull in the most merciful of ways. He digs deep down into my core beliefs and says, "Nuh-uh. This isn't me. THIS is me. And this is who I want you to be."

He's quite amazing, you see, in His dealings with me. The perfect model of what I long to become. I have a long way to go, but my box is broken and that's a start.


Heidi @ GGIP said...

Grace is so difficult to understand and even after my months of studying it (when I first started my blog) and several books and interactions with other bloggers, it is still hard to grasp. I'm glad that your eyes are being opened and that you felt comfortable enough to blog about it.

With my bible study reading Grace Based Parenting, we are asked to deal with how our own experiences as children shaped our idea of grace and stuff like that, so I can see where you are coming from on that point. I think you have to keep at it in trying to understand.

Kim said...

Great post, Crystal! Grace is something I sure don't really understand - although I hope that I'm coming to understand it more and more as I grow in my walk as a Christian.