A Christmas Story of Grace
Pine fragrance infused the room lit by tiny white lights. Christmas carols played softly in the background. The twinkling lights bounced merrily off the bright ornaments…the reds and greens, golds and silvers. A portrait of peace.
And a direct contrast to the ugly words slipping past my lips, a dreadful avalanche heaping on the child in front of me.
He stepped in quietly and whispered the word, shielding our child from the arrows flying out of my mouth.
I breathed deep and almost choked on more venomous words directed at him. But I checked them, and like a toddler admitting defeat, I stood, shoulders slumped and head down.
“I’m just tired.”
And he did. He and that girl standing in front of me. They knew the problem wasn’t them…it was my need to control, my need to have things perfect. A need woven so deeply in me. It wasn’t the poorly done task in front of me that caused my outburst. No, that situation only warranted my guidance, my teaching. A hard lesson learned – no need for heated words and the wild gesturing of the hands to emphasis my points.
No, my outburst came from a place deep in my heart…a tired, frustrated place. A place that needs to have my surroundings just so. A place that finds peace from righting chaos. A place that rates my worth on my home…my parenting…my doing.
That place had been prodded and poked a bit. Bruised by slight looks and gestures, comments eluding to my parenting…choices made for my family…my home – all such intimate, sensitive issues for me. Simple things others would let go; things that I allowed to stick like burrs in the tender places of my heart. Hurt feelings festered, turning to justifying my choices…and eventually anger. And ultimately giving vent in the most unlovely of ways…to the most undeserving of people.
As I stood there in front of those I love so desperately, I asked for forgiveness for my ugliness. And what I had failed to pass on to one who’d made a simple childish mistake, was bestowed upon me liberally.
But that night, as I laid in bed, far from sleep, I pondered these deep, dark places in my heart. Why do I let things bother me so? Why do I crave the approval of others so strongly? Why do I get so angry with another’s opinions of me, of my lifestyle? Why do I harbor these bitter seeds that sprout shoots of resentment and anger?
So it was my heart cry, this heart rent in two, “Why? Why, Lord, do I have such a critical spirit, such a need for perfectionism? And why do I require it of those I love, withholding my approval, my love, when they’ve let me down? Why is grace so hard for me to give?”
And He whispered it soft, the refrain I’ve heard before, whispered it deep into the recesses of my aching heart, “Child, you can’t give something you won’t receive yourself.”
You can’t give grace well until you’re willing to accept it.
It’s true. I don’t know how to accept this gift of grace. I believe in Him…believe in His life…but I don’t let His grace wash over me, cleaning me, changing me from the inside out.
And isn’t this what the whole Christmas season is about anyway? Grace? Didn’t He – who is love – didn’t He take on flesh because of His mighty grace? Not just a splash here and there. No. A wild, lavish grace. A life-changing grace.
And it’s there in the manger…all the way to the cross. This life bathed in grace.
A life He gave for me. A grace He wants to set me free.
Couldn’t this kind of grace change this whole yuletide season? Couldn’t it change the way we see relationship? The way we see others? The way we see ourselves? The way we see Him?
This December, as each week of Advent brings us closer to the day we celebrate His birth, couldn’t we infuse our pine-scented holidays with grace? And couldn’t we breathe it in?