Tumbling in the Sand
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” – Ephesians 2:8
This is one of those bits of scripture that is so familiar we kind of assume we understand exactly what it is saying. And we do understand it … sort of.
But, really, what does grace mean? or saved? or faith for that matter?
I think these words tend to be really “church-y” words that mean little outside of that context—in other words, outside of Sunday morning, in our everyday lives “grace,” “saved” and “faith” are hard to grab hold of, put flesh on, and live in to.
I’m pretty sure that in a single reflection I’m not going to be able to put flesh on them really well, but maybe I’ll give it a start to help us all think about it, because these words—this passage—is the living heart of the gospel. But these words, this passage, seems to be as covered in dust as the knickknacks on my bookshelf. It’s perhaps time to dust them off and take another look.
So, first, there’s grace. A gift. A surprise. Undeserved. Unearned. Free. Really, undeserved, unearned, free. Like, not “he was a good guy” kind of free and undeserved; but, more like “we’ve got nothing nice to say about him at all” kind of free and undeserved. Like the guy whose family at his funeral planning could say nothing nice about him at all, but they remembered he used to whistle “Rock of Ages” while he worked on stuff around the house and so I whistled it at his funeral (verses 2 and 3):
Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die!
That’s grace. Ridiculously free. Ridiculously unexpected. Ridiculously unearned. But given anyway. And given so that we are never the same again …
So, then we come to the word “saved.” Before I start, there is a significant theological debate among good, faithful Christians about the meaning of this word and there are more than a few Christians who would accuse me of getting it wrong when it comes to how I understand what this word means. Thank God there is grace, I suppose. But, when I think of saved, I think of being healed. Of being made whole. Of dying to my brokenness and being made a new creation. Saved to me is something that starts in my life even now, even as I am further broken by the hurting of this world, and even as I still fall flat on my face in sin. But, somehow, my brokenness, my failures, my stumbling along looking to live into the vision of God’s beloved community (and falling horribly short) is used by God for goodness, healing, reuniting of community, and healing of all creation. And, somehow, in the end, we all will be made completely whole, completely reunited in God’s love.
And that is where we get to faith for me. Faith, to me, is not some sort of intellectual understanding of all of this, but rather the accidental falling in love and living of all of this. Faith is the unexpected, unexplainable, unplanned experience of being knocked off your feet by grace and finding yourself longing and living for God’s grace in your life and the life of others.
Featured Image: Found on “The Kingdom’s Keeper” blog. Read her post here: http://www.thekingdomskeeper.com/dust-heaven/