Monday, February 18, 2013

Spilling Grace

Dear Friends,

Spilling grace is “the Spirit’s” work.  There was a problem that had arisen in the ministry.  People appeared to have been unjustly handled.  I didn’t want to go into the space where people I loved and respected were hurting, talking in whispers, frightened – in tears. I needed to have a “conversation” about that.  So, as my habit is, I went to the “steps” of my soul and met Him there.

“Lord, God how do I respond to this atmosphere of fear?  This sense of betrayal?”
“Spill Grace.”
“How do I do that?”
“Be full of the Holy Spirit.  He is the Spirit of Grace.  Stay in touch with the thoughts He brings to mind: The ideas He will give you of ways to touch a hand or say: “I’m so sorry, what a loss!” or “would you like a cup of coffee, I’m praying, want to talk?  I’m a good listener: try me!”  Offer your heart.”

“I can do that.  But Lord, when we are at the table face-to-face, and my friend is talking about how she’s been treated and I’m hearing things that make me boil or weep, what do I do?”

“Remember, you’ve only heard one side of the story.  I’ve heard it all.  In fact ‘before a word was spoken I knew it all together!’  Give people the benefit of the doubt.”

“How do you stand it, Lord?  Listening to all this stuff a million times a minute?”
“I am God.”
“Oh!  Of course.  Problem is Lord, I’m not!”
“Remember that!”
“Got it!  So, I’m to listen remembering You know all the twists and turns in the matter.  All the past doings and sayings and all the future yet-to-be doings and sayings too?”

“Yes.  Read Psalm 139.”
I stopped and read the psalm.  It’s one of my favorites!  Then I continued the conversation.  (Why don’t you stop and read it, too?)

 “So when I’ve finished listening to her?”
“Give all parties the benefit of the doubt.  Be generous of spirit. It’s not your job to judge people’s motives.  That’s my work!”

“They don’t sound as if they deserve the benefit of the doubt, Lord—oops sorry.  “Err: Do I say anything to her about the people in question?”
“If it’s full of grace.”
“Bother!  What about full of truth?”
“You can’t know the truth here.”
“Well then that sort of limits the conversation!”
“Limit it then!  The time may come when you more fully understand the truth.  Then you may need to speak it in love.  But that is not now.  Grace finds many words.”

“How will I know if what comes out of my mouth is full of grace or is coming from a critical judgmental attitude?”

“You’ll know.”
“Yes, I suppose I shall!  So – you’re suggesting offering words someone doesn’t really deserve? Something kind: forgiving?”

“I’m not ‘suggesting’ Jill!”
“Oops, sorry Lord!”
“Grace gave you what you didn’t deserve. Now let that grace spill over.”
“But isn’t that condoning a wrong?”
“Offer a word of grace that has nothing to do with the situation at hand.  Remind your friend of my grace for all people.  Say things like: ’you know often such words are said or deeds happen because there is deep anger or unresolved pain behind the offense.  We don’t know the motivation.  We don’t understand the ‘why of the situation yet.’”

“Then what?”
“Focus your conversation on what you DO know.”
“But what do I really know, Lord?”
“That I am God and I am good – all the time. I am in control even when it seems all evidence is to the contrary.  That I have the matter in hand.  I am not absent, unaware, or unconcerned about all the tears and heartache.  I love you all: both offenders and offended.  Start there.”

So I invited my crushed friend to coffee and I did my best to be a true friend.  After we had read Psalm 139 and talked for a long time I heard the Spirit say:
“Now it’s time to pray.”

“What do I pray?”
“That your friend responds with grace to the situation as God would have her respond. Grace in word and action. Grace offered when grace has been offended.  Grace knows how to handle offense.  He does it all the time!”

“The unfairness of it all rose up inside me. ‘But why should she Lord?  They should be spilling grace over her, and not expunging her character! It’s not fair.’”

“Right, that’s what grace is for – when life isn’t fair!”
“Well they should do it first!”

“Let there be a race. A race to trust Me, to obey Me. I know the heart of the matter, most thoroughly. I know all the whys and wherefores. I have a plan to bless and not to harm. Tell your friend to kneel down in her heart before Me. You come too: right here, right now.

“In Starbucks?!”

No answer!  So I reached across the table and took her hand and we bowed our heads in that crowded room and found ourselves “beneath the praise of angels.” (You can you know even in a coffee shop!)  Above all the commotion we both clearly heard His voice.

“Praise Me.”
“But how can we praise You for a wrong thing?”
“I’m not asking for your praise for a wrong thing: not for ‘it’ but for ME!”
“When you can’t praise Me for what I allow, praise Me for who I am in the midst of what I allow!”

“We can do that.”

“I remembered He had said to me at another time in a similar situation, “When you’re lost for words it helps to borrow others.  So we followed His advice (good move) and used His servant David’s words.

Search me oh God and know my heart
Try me and know my ways.
See if there is any wicked way in me
And lead me in the way everlasting.
So there at the table we walked right into the throne room.  And
we worshipped the One who “bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.”
Then we ordered another cup of coffee and talked about “the way” forward.

I listened amazed at my friend.  She talked of an idea that had come into her head as we had prayed that prayer.  An idea how she could “spill grace” over the perpetrator of the hurt.  It was a great idea, a sweet idea, an “Amazing Grace” idea! And I bowed my head and wondered greatly at the Spirit’s work.

Would you like to have a conversation too?  Where do you need to spill grace? Spend some time journaling your thoughts today.

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us magazine

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Jill. So very timely - I was just talking with a couple of young people about this very issue - truth vs grace, discernment vs a critical spirit. I'll share your thoughts with them!