Come Taste the Grace

In the past year, I have grown into a person I never imagined, and I have found more joy than I ever thought possible. I’ve abandoned traditionalism, embraced freedom, discovered how to be brave, and opened my mind. I am anti-CHILL. I am standing on the side of love. I am making room at my table. Sometimes, it’s really hard to be this new girl with new opinions and new beliefs. When my family wakes up on Sunday mornings to go to church, I don’t quite know how to explain to my little brother that I no longer experience moments of faith sitting on a pew being told what to believe. When I see groups of my former best friends, my heart aches at the memory of places I once called home becoming places I no longer felt welcome. But, more often than not, I’m completely in love with this way of doing life. I love the acceptance, the friendship, and the unending grace that I experience. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever known.

A few weeks ago, some of my friends went on a mission trip, and one of them brought sermon notes back for me to read. I was quickly reminded of just how badly I needed to change my perspective.  (Note: some of these aren’t direct quotations from the speaker but direct quotes of the paraphrase I read in the notes.)

“Be more broken about where their soul will be for eternity than how much they’ve eaten today.”

“God has called us to be missionaries and evangelists.”

“Become friends to win people to Christ.”

“Find like-minded people.” “Friends who don’t do church on Wednesday nights will try and pull you away from your like-minded Christian friends because they are blind to the truth we have seen.”

I don’t think I’ve ever been more disturbed at a group of statements… It is more important to feed the hungry than it is to assume you know the destination of their souls. It is more important to be a loving friend than an evangelist, and it is more important to cultivate genuine friendships that to use relationship as leverage to win souls. It is more important to embrace all members of the human race with open arms than it is to huddle exclusively with those who believe as you.

There's so much love that there isn't even room for my face...or maybe it's just all the muscle.
There’s so much love that there isn’t even room for my face…or maybe it’s just all the muscle.

Meet two of my absolute favorite people in the whole world, Rob and Daniel. They’re pretty much nothing like me, and I’m still amazed at how they continually fill me up with love with the smallest gestures. Short messages with the words “You gonna make it?” and a flower emoji followed by “Flowers for you” just cover my life with this feeling of being genuinely loved. They have tough love when I need to hear it, jokes when I need to laugh, and this never ending acceptance of all the parts of me that still blows me away. I can almost taste how much grace I feel around them. They might get agitated with me every now and then, but somehow they continue to listen to my overreactions, put up with my overbearing mothering, give me space to be whoever I need to be.

I’m overjoyed that I opened myself up to learning from them instead of remaining in my former state of caring condescension. They’ve taught me that maybe the mission trip speaker doesn’t have it all figured out. Maybe I should bake brownies and tell people they’re amazing instead of telling them they need to be saved. Maybe I should strive to be remembered as someone who tried to love everyone a little bigger instead of someone who tried to force religion. Maybe my friendships should mean something so much more than a way to win souls. Maybe like-minded people hinder us more than they help us… Maybe love and friendship and grace and all those wonderful things that make life worth living, maybe they’re the things that matter most. Maybe, just maybe, we don’t truly understand grace until we’ve been welcomed at a table of people who we’ve never welcomed, a table where we’re forced to see how truly amazing these people unlike ourselves are.

Rob and Dano tell me all the time that they’re not as great as I think they are, and they’re right. They’re so much greater. Thanks for helping me make it, guys. Thanks for reminding me that loving is more important than being right; thanks for welcoming me at your table. And, thanks for showing me the depth of grace.

As we end this season of rest, vacation, and relaxation, I hope you remember to feed the hungry simply because compassion draws you to alleviate suffering. May you find a different-minded person who you grow to love, and may you experience the joy of a friendship that has no underlying motivation. I hope you have the courage to embrace your own perspective, whether it’s the perspective you were taught as a child or the perspective you used to look down upon. I hope you discover that there are moments much more important than the moments you will spend sitting in church, the moments in which you live out the example of Jesus rather than listen to it. More than anything else, I hope you find grace. Maybe you’ll find it in how much Jesus loved us, or maybe you’ll find it somewhere else- each new day beginning or a couple of people you never expected. I just hope you find it, and I hope that you never stop uncovering it’s depth.

Come to the table. Come taste the grace.

-Shannon

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