by Rev. Terry Tripp, CFDM Co-Director
Having experienced a lovely time with family and friends over Christmas and the New Year celebrations, I am acutely aware that I am a blessed woman. Loved, cared for, finding community in a new town, helping to lead an awesome non-profit that seeks to teach that God is in all places and more loving and gracious than we can imagine. So, of course I see and feel God’s grace and love, right? But is it a matter of my circumstances or a fact a part?
I would say that I grew up believing that I needed to show God and others how much I loved them by how I did all “the right things” at the “right time”. What a burden, especially when life didn’t work as I thought it should! Yes, I celebrated God’s grace in Christ crucified for us (Gal. 2:19-20), saving us from ourselves. But my behavior was that of a person who followed “the rules.” “The rules” were defined by what the Church interpreted as the right behavior of one who believes in God incarnate through Jesus Christ. And when I followed those rules, I would experience the peace of God that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:4-7).
Yet, over the last 20 some years I have been on an on-going conversion to experiencing that peace is through letting go of my idea of how life ought to be or go. A more grace filled Gospel than I had ever imagined, finding peace in not what I performed, but in what God simply gave to me if I would receive it. Receiving it became the invitation, not performing it! And really, in not getting the life I thought those behaviors would induce.
I began to find God – God’s grace – in all the wrong places. God breaking in – the Kingdom of God breaking in, regardless if I or someone else performed the “right behaviors.” I stopped having the typical “quiet time” – a time of scripture study and prayer that I designed – of course, early in the morning. Now, don’t get me wrong, reading scripture and prayer are Huge ways into receiving God’s grace – but they stopped being performed in the ways I was taught. They came to me when I was hungry for them or led into a moment of reflection, un-beckoned by my own decisiveness. Finding the Spirit drawing my heart when I had no idea I needed what I needed.
I found God in the homeless man who attends the Church I’m attending. He chooses to be homeless. He comes to worship in dirty close with a broad brimmed hat and a cat on his shoulder. Up he goes for Communion with the old, the middle aged, and the young. We ran into each other in town last week and he held a door open for me with a smile of acknowledgment that we are in the same community. A community that is simply wanting God’s grace as we figure out life as it is when it is.
God broke into my grieving heart as I listened to a new member of the community of the widowed. This is not a community that anyone wants to belong to! How the mystery of who lives and who doesn’t creates unanswerable prayers where God seems silent? Yet there too, the Kingdom and grace break in as we discover that we survive and want to live and still be present to God who loves us, though doesn’t answer all our questions.
Finding God in all the wrong places is in fact finding God in all the places God chooses to reveal God’s self-more fully than if we constructed events according to our plans. Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” Finding God in all the wrong places, is in-fact finding God in all places at all times. God working out God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Grace is so offensive to us because we don’t get to control how it operates and it’s not dependent on what you do, but on what God is doing.
Look for it afresh in 2019!