Living in the Tension of Grace

Lights are dim, the music quiet, almost haunting, the crowd somber and silent as they exit. “It was my sin that held him there, until it was accomplished” rings in people’s ears, rattling in their hearts, stirring up reminders of the harsh, careless words, white lies and withheld forgiveness that made the sacrifice, now declared finished, necessary.

Dark, heavy sin hangs in the air.

We are sent from the service knowing it is our sin, that hides in our hearts and speaks words of malice and wrinkles our noses at those in need, that called to be covered. It is a burdensome reminder, because covered it was, with Jesus’ own blood and love.

Yet in this weighty, somber time, there is a strange sense of goodness.

If I don’t acknowledge the stinking, terrible, all-encompassing mess that is my own sin, I may be tempted to think I can save myself–that somehow my own paltry attempts at “being good” will equate to salvation. It is good to be reminded of my own darkness, my desire to live my own way, as though my human power is enough to save myself.


But then, grace.

Beautiful, sweet, obliterating grace steps into the weighty darkness to say I don’t have to think that way, act that way, be that way. Grace says I am drawn to the dark, but have been given light. Grace says my sin, the mess I can never clean up with any amount of mops or bleach, has been more than cleaned–it is forgotten. As though the mess never existed. I am seen as spotless.


Remembering my sin, acknowledging I’ve tried to do it on my own and failed, seeing the ever-increasing mess I will never be able to clean…yet accepting the gift of grace, living as an expression of gratitude, knowing my mess is now and forever gone. Reconciling the two is more than my limited mind seems capable of.

So we live in the tension, brought to light more than usual in holy week services and celebrated with finality on Easter. We live in the pull between the whisperings of sin saying, “You can clean up your own mess,” and the melodious shouts of grace, saying, “Your mess has been forgotten, if only you accept it.”

It is good to remember our sin, but we remember from within the loving embrace of grace. There is sorrow for our sin, acceptance that we have and will continue to do wrong…and it pushes us back to grace. The need, the wonder, the beauty of grace.


Til next time…


p.s. Have you ever felt the tension between remembering sin and living in grace?

Shimmers of Grace

Much of my weekend so far has been spent grading papers, which is giving me a new appreciation for teachers and professors. In the future, if you get a paper or test back with food stains on it, don’t judge. Grading is hungry work.

Besides increasing my appetite, I’m finding it to be interesting in other ways. Many of the papers I’ve graded today have been about the seven deadly vices, which are things I don’t think about often–perhaps because doing so is not overly pleasant.

Anger. Lust. Envy. Gluttony. Vainglory. Sloth. Avarice.

Even the words have a menacing look to them, as though they might bare their fangs and hiss at me.

The thoughts, desires, and actions these words stand for are much more menacing than their letters.

As I read papers detailing some of these vices, it is hard to keep from cringing; my life is splayed across the page, in all the examples and stories. Even vices I would at first be quick to dismiss play some role, however small, in my day to day life. I’ve skimmed the book the students based their papers on–Glittering Vices, by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung–and it is incredibly convicting. No one can completely deny the reality of these sins.

Yet in the book, and in these papers as well, I can’t help noticing shimmers of hope. Or, more accurately, grace. Hope because of grace.

Because though DeYoung’s words, and also my students’, cause me to squirm (and rightly so), there is much more to the story than being consumed by the menacing scourge of the seven deadly vices. DeYoung offers concrete suggestions for recognizing and combating them in our own lives, but they are meaningless without grace.

Grace that opens up the possibility of improvement.

Grace that offers a new way to live.

Grace that means my own inability to defeat these vices is covered by Jesus’ perfect ability to do just that.

Shimmers of grace that overwhelm the glitter of vices.


Til next time…