Collision with Grace

I had a collision with Grace yesterday.

At least, that’s what the presiding bishop of the ELCA, Mark Hanson, called it when he spoke about Saul at our synod assembly last Saturday. This Saul was on the road to Damascus to hunt down and arrest Christians when he was confronted in blinding light by the risen Jesus. In the end Saul was baptized and became the great spokesperson for the good news of Jesus’ forgiveness. Why? His collision with Grace.

The bishop preached of the widow walking beside the bier of her dead son when Jesus and his party of disciples intercepted the village funeral procession. She wasn’t expecting someone to raise her son to life, to change her hopelessness into joy, but Jesus did both. A collision with Grace.

Then the bishop spoke of his own collision with Grace during a family therapy session. The therapist apparently turned to him at some point and kindly but bluntly said (I’m paraphrasing) that as a bishop he talked a lot about grace, but in his own life full of high expectations he sure didn’t seem to accept Grace for himself.

At the point of the bishop’s honesty with us, Grace collided into me. I abruptly understood how in a circumstance past I have clung to “I wish I had done this differently,” and “I should have done that” and “I have failed in….” I have not forgiven myself for what I didn’t see or was too busy to see. It is a lingering burden that for years hasn’t gone away. I have not extended grace to myself, nor have I thought to allow God to do so.

That is, until yesterday when in the midst of a bishop’s prophetic truth-telling, I heard my own truth. Actually I heard God’s truth, that God has accepted the past I haven’t been able to accept. That God has long since forgiven the things I failed to do at the time. That for years I have been carrying around a bag of dead bones. The collision with Grace has knocked those drying bones to the ground where they should remain unless, God forbid, I try to pick them up again. Grace, however, says let it be; let God fix what I no longer can undo.

It is one thing for a pastor to pronounce forgiveness for others week after week. It is another to receive it for herself. The collision was quiet except for tears rolling down my face that I hoped my neighbors seated beside me wouldn’t notice. My internal earthquake is allowing a basic question to emerge: what right have I to hang on to what God has declared forgiven? What right have I to take back what God is creatively taking into God’s own hands? Better to leave the bones lie, isn’t it?

Have you held onto old bones? It is a sure thing, as our bishop said, that in Jesus’ presence we encounter Grace—a grace that shatters our expectations of ourselves, whether too high or too low. Sometimes it requires a collision.

Comments

  1. We all struggle with “the empty sack of bones”.

    For a “Bishop & a Pastor” to confess to the same situations / issues, which those of us experience on a day to day basis is………….. uplifting in the sense that we are not alone in our Journey, our Relationship, with God. Goose bumps & tears welled up when I read this post, thinking of my own sack.

    Those darn bones sure can hinder us.

    Thank you for sharing Bishop Hansen & Pastor Dent.

  2. Thank you for this, Elaine. Something I will definitely ponder today.

    Mich

  3. Dang. Thank you!