Monday, July 2, 2007

Grace Happening People - "A" is for Accepting and Affirming

June 23, 2007

This is the third installment of a twelve-week summer series based on the anagram “GRACE HAPPENS,” each letter representing a quality that equips us to be “Grace Happening People.”

“A” is for…
Grace Happening People are Accepting and Affirming

In a competitive, materialistic, get-ahead-at-all-costs world, it is important for Grace Happening people to provide the gift of acceptance and affirmation. Everywhere we turn, we get the message that we are not good enough, fast enough, smart enough, rich enough, or pretty or handsome enough. Everything seems to hinge on performance and production—fast and efficient, clever and high-tech, sleek and slim.

In the atmosphere of grace, however, we are affirmed, not just for our strengths and goodness, our talents and contributions, but for who we are in Christ. Our worth is not based on what we do—but rather on who Christ is—and who we are in Christ. In a grace-permeated climate, there is even an affirming of our flawed nature. According to Gerald May, author of Addiction and Grace, “our incompleteness is what draws us toward God and one another. If we do not fill our minds with guilt and self-recriminations, we will recognize our incompleteness as a kind of open space into which we can welcome the flow of grace. We can think of our inadequacies as terrible defects, if we want, and hate ourselves. But we can also think of them affirmatively, as doorways through which the power of grace can enter our lives. Then we may begin to appreciate our inherent God given loveable-ness.”

Gerald May is focusing on self-acceptance here, which I believe is essential to our becoming Grace Happening People. And in order to truly accept ourselves, we must first understand that “it’s not about me”; it’s about God. It’s not about my flaws; it’s about God’s perfect plan to save me, empower me, and use me. It’s not about how good I am; it’s about GRACE. My flaws and my goodness are neither here nor there; it’s about who I am in Christ. I am a one-of-a-kind creation of God, wooed into God’s love and grace by the Holy Spirit and saved by Jesus. I don’t comprehend it, but I believe it. I must admit, though, that the edges of my faith are frayed with doubt, because it’s just too good to be true and it so foreign to the way we humans think.

Acceptance does not come easy in many situations, whether that be acceptance of self, or others or, circumstances. I am a “recovering perfectionist” and I am never done putting the finishing touches on anything. I’ve got my husband pretty well the way I want him, but it’s taken thirty-four years to smooth out his edges. And life would be great if so-and-so would get their act together, and if they’d find a cure for arthritis, and if my middle would stop expanding, and if…

I know that I’m not alone when I ponder the “Serenity Prayer” given us by Reinhold Niebuhr:

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
and extremely happy with You forever in the next.

(Complete, unabridged, original version.)

If I can’t change things, I guess the next best thing to do is to find what I can to affirm—in myself, others, and circumstances—and affirm it!

Grace Happening people accept and affirm the flawed nature of themselves and others, recognizing the very presence of grace drawing them toward God and into fellowship with one another. Thank you, God, for our grace-filled flaws that lead us deeper and deeper into your love!

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