I am introducing Companions in Christ: The Way of Grace to my new congregation. Nine folks signed up for this small group, and the introductory meeting last Sunday gave me confidence that it will be an enriching group for all.
If you've done this study, you may remember the first chapter. It contains Walter Brueggemann's intriguing description of grace as:
God's transforming disposition towards the whole world.
Then the text says:
Divine grace is expressed as a creative will for dynamic life and goodness, full of ongoing possibilities for transformation and renewal. God bestows on human beings the risky gift of freedom of divine love, a risk extended for the sake of transformation, for greater wholeness, for fullness of life. ... Jesus calls his disciples who will shortly misunderstand as much as they understand. Why? For the hope of transformation. Advocacy is risked by Jesus for a woman who has been caught dead-to-right in sin. Why? For the potential of transformation.... Grace takes risks---changing us into whom we may yet become.
One of the exercises for the week asks us to reflect on John 1: 16. "From Christ's fullness we have all received grace upon grace."
I have received grace upon grace. Grace upon grace.
When I feel uneasy about the myriad changes going on around me--in my family, the culture, etc.--to remember that change is inevitable. Freedom gives me choices to make about some of those changes, but in a very real sense, no matter what happens, no matter the outcome, all shall be well. I have received grace upon grace.
When I worry about the future of this nation and the role the U.S. plays in the world -- to remember that I can still influence events in my circle of relationships, and that, ultimately, no matter what happens, no matter the outcome, a hidden wholeness still pervades. Forces for good are still at work. Prayer is powerful. Peace begins within the human soul. Grace upon grace.
When I beat myself up about gaining weight and wonder, Oh, this must mean at some unconscious level I'm not happy, I'm not integrated, I'm not spiritually mature -- to remember that whether there is some measure of truth in those thoughts or not, the core truth is that I am created in the image of God. And just as I am! Woo-hoo! And God is still calling me toward wholeness, toward integrating the various disparate parts of myself, toward spiritual maturity. I've come a long way. Already. I've already come a long way. Grace upon grace.
When I allow the often-unconscious fear that 'I am neither loveable nor powerful' to dominate my behavior and I hold back from loving my husband with radical freedom -- may I remember that God never ceases taking the risk to love ME completely, with the radical freedom that is the wellspring of true joy. May I listen so deeply for God that I, too, can learn to love without fear. Only then will my marriage be the spiritual discipline that I long for it to be. My heart yearns to know the true empowerment involved in the giving over of myself such that I can love with radical freedom a man whom I believe is truly trustworthy. When I can move into that spiritual space ~ the space that IS 'grace upon grace,' and know the truth of that, and trust the truth of that ~ then will I be enabled to live the abundant life I am promised.
When my little false ego is hurt that someone did not acknowledge my contribution, did not affirm my efforts, did not seek me out -- to remember that my ego/mind is a cover-up for the authentic Katherine whose value springs forth not from compliments or popularity or achievement but from the imago Christi within me. Nothing else. And how amazing, truly breathtaking, that I am indeed created in the image of Christ. From this centered place in my being I am actually inviolate. Ah, grace upon grace.
Grace as "God's transforming disposition toward the whole world" makes perfect sense, doesn't it? All these fears and worries and concerns and little hurts are but the veil, the gossamer curtain, separating me from the greater reality of grace-upon-grace.
My transformation comes as I find the courage within me to lift the veil and move forward.