Looking at Grace from the Bottom

Growing up in our family, my brother and I heard a lot of words of wisdom. Granddaddy and Daddy always tried to dole out sage advice.

“Keep your rear end behind you!” (Thanks, Granddaddy, I try.)

Or they would share the wisdom in the form of quasi-helpful sarcasm.

“It’ll quit hurting when it’s done.” (Yes, Daddy, that’s a real comfort.)

But Mama, she gave me some words that have stood the test of time. She taught me the principle of sowing and reaping: “What goes around, comes around.”

As a kid, that helped me to mentally deal with the injustices of the world. Someone important to me may have been treated unfairly, but it was okay because what goes around, comes around, and in the end, the unfair party will get what they deserve. Even as I was abused, part of what gave me peace was knowing that one day, my abusers would meet with justice. I didn’t have to witness it. I didn’t have to administer it. Just knowing that it would happen one day was enough for me.

As a grown-up, it’s harder to find that peace. I’ve seen a lot of guilty people not get justice. And I’ve seen a lot of innocent people struggle, fail, or fall victims to things they’ve never deserved. It’s harder to hear Mama’s voice: “What goes around, comes around.”

Recently, I became a casualty of circumstances way beyond my control. I did all of the right things. And I should have been a great success. But instead of celebrating my victory, I found myself being handed a major defeat. As I sat, licking my wounds, I almost found myself questioning God with “Why?” But then, I realized that if I asked God why I’d lost when I deserved to win, I’d also have to ask Him about all of the times He had allowed me to win when I deserved to lose.

Billy Coffey told a story once that has stayed with me a long time. He told about how his wife cross-stitches. And once, when he was looking at her project, he was shocked because it looked like a big, ugly mess. But then, he realized he was looking at the wrong side.

Only God can see the big picture. I’m on the underside of it. All I can see is a big, knotted, ugly mess. But because He can see it from the top, He’s the one that knows the order of things. He knows when I need to win. He knows when I need to lose. And He has all of our best interests in mind. If I won’t question it, but will just stick with the pattern He gives me, then in the end, the picture will come out just beautifully. If I try to handle the threads myself, we’re all going to end up in a great big tangled mess.

Okay, so I lost this battle that I deserved to win. That’s okay.

I remember a time not so long ago when I had really messed up and I deserved to really be busted for it, but I wasn’t. Instead, I was forgiven. And I know that some of you are thinking, “How bad could it really have been?” Guys, there are things that I’ve done that would shock the most liberal-minded of you. There are things I’ve done that I will never tell a living soul because I know that they would make me unacceptable. But that’s why I love God. Because He watched those very things happen, and when they were done, said, “I love you anyway. Would you like to be forgiven?” And it’s highly unlikely that anyone else I know would have said those things. But He did. And that’s grace.

And this battle that I lost, that I deserved to win? That’s grace, too. I haven’t figured out why just yet, but because I know Who’s taking care of me, I know that it’s true.

Like Brennan Manning said, “All is grace.”

“So while the principle of sowing and reaping continues to be operational in our world, there are exceptions. And I bet you already knew that. Like me, you’ve seen some hard-working, responsible people who did everything right financially fall on hard times because of circumstances completely beyond their control. You know people who took great care of themselves whose bodies were eventually destroyed by disease. I bet you’ve seen some dishonest people prosper, too. But the good news is that there is another kind of exception to the principle of sowing and reaping….The exception I’m referring to is grace….Grace is the vehicle God uses on occasion to ensure that we get precisely what we don’t deserve.”

Stanley, Andy. (2010-10-19). The Grace of God. Thomas Nelson.

This post is part of our weekly book discussion on Andy Stanley’s book, The Grace of God. You don’t have to read the book to discuss! Feel free to leave your comments below. If you’ve written a response to this week’s chapter, run on over to my co-facilitator, Jason Stasyszen’s place, and link it up on the widget. Next week, the widget will be back here, so come on back!

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Comments

  1. I just finished Brennan’s autobiography and I thought a lot about him during this chapter. He struggled his whole life with alcoholism. He would go minister and then hide for days in a drunken stupor, but God kept touching people and kept bringing Brennan back to his Abba. I don’t know why everything worked out the way it did, but it was grace and it never ran out. Gives me hope for my struggles and foibles.

    By the way, you’re not alone in those unmentionables, but I do hope some day you find someone you can share completely with and find the love and acceptance God has for you. I’ve had my share and being able to convey that to a trusted person and still feel their love and not have them look at me differently? That’s amazing. That’s healing. That’s grace.

    Thanks Sarah.

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, maybe that’s why everything worked out with Brennan the way it did – to give us hope for our struggles and foibles. I long ago learned that God’s grace is so much greater than people’s. He never gives up on me. He never walks away or walks out on me. No matter what screwed up thing I do, say, or think.

  3. This life perceived through the lens of our understanding is often perceived as a catastrophic mess. When seen through the lens of God’s purpose and love, it becomes a masterpiece that defies all human logic.

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    So true, Dusty! I once had an accountability partner who would often tell me that I was being too hard on myself. She would say, “Sarah, you’re doing way better than you think you are! Besides, it’s okay to be where you are – as long as you don’t stay there.” Sometimes, it’s just kinda hard to see through His eyes. :-)

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