3rd grade, hand raised high in excitement. I knew the answer. Finally, I knew the answer to something. Held back in first grade, taller than everyone else, bullied by a mean girl – I risked raising that hand out of a protective barrier I’d stuffed myself into for hiding.
Father Stewart was visiting our religion class – to talk about grace. He asked us to tell him what it was.
You know how it was – hand not shyly raised, but reaching, fingers wiggling – and he called on me for the answer – this grace-filled answer:
“How you move, like a ballerina,” – there – I’d risked it – a sure-fire, right answer
He swatted his hand toward me, “No” he grumbled out, as though I’d done something wrong – and turned away.
I sat there – mortified. Not just at having the wrong answer – which my mother and grandmother had taught me was the right answer. They loved graceful things. Shy outside home, that little girl grace was slowly growing into growing girl awkwardness.
“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:15)
Yet, without knowing what grace was – God poured it all over me – when I met him in my grandmother’s back yard, climbing trees, on the school bus when other kids made fun of my teeth, cowering under bed-time covers in the dark, old house sure something was going to get me, at bed-time prayers when I needed – and He was there – meeting me – loving my graceless self and giving me His
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10)
and when I’d grown, walked some away from Him, and came back, asking, “Show me how to love you like when I was little,” – He did, pouring that same grace all over me, embracing me – and calling me His own – always loving, gently encouraging, even when I got the answers wrong.
That 3rd grade day in religion class, my ears burned too much to hear what he said about grace. God knew. God wasn’t surprised – by my answer, by my embarrassment and momentary hearing loss – He knew how this little girl heart and mind worked. As I sought out relationship with Him, he opened my ears, my eyes and my heart to His kind of grace – so that I understood what I was receiving from Him. He doesn’t just give us one chance to get it. Some people, like me, need a lot of repetition.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2: 4-9)