I sat around a crowded table, in a room that was not built for the sound it contained. Waves of noise and notes and echoes bounced from each wall and structure and soul in an unorganized and chaotic path, yet relevant because life was happening all around. People were peopling. And even as we are fractured and bent, the healed and the broken blending together, there was a beauty in the mix. There was a gathering of diverse unity, a complex blanket of grace thrown about in a collection of hearts beating differently yet the same.
It’s what we are meant to do, really… gather.
And as we gather we take in the good that He gives, we rejoice together, we pray together, we weep together, we seek together, we wait together.
But sometimes it is hard to do, because we measure our differences in varying ways that keep us from locking arms and inviting grace so we can be better together.
Let us all come forward and draw near with true hearts in unqualified assurance and absolute conviction engendered by faith, having our hearts sprinkled and purified from a guilty conscience and our bodies cleansed with pure water.
Let us seize and hold fast and retain without wavering the hope we cherish and confess, and our acknowledgement of it, for He Who promised is reliable and faithful to His Word and let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up to love and helpful deeds and noble activities,
Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together, as is the habit of some people, but admonishing one another, and all the more faithful as you see the day approaching.
In my quiet time lately, I have found myself drawn into the deep compassionate love of the Father. Seeking and looking and longing to understand this call He has scribed for me. Sometimes, I fail to go there, to this place that He carves for us all, a contemplative space where our hearts know they are home and our questions are met with the yes and amen faith He gives.
And as I look up from that space, my eyes take in the masses that move before me… constantly moving and swaying with the tide of life…rarely looking up and taking in the majesty and the wonder that surrounds them. But mostly, it is the church that I see, moving as fast and as far away from one another as we can.
I confess, I am one who runs when drama unfolds. I do not want to stay in the midst of the words that are leveled with bullet points and proof and refutation. I much prefer the quiet spaces where smiles and grace and praise feed hope and fill hearts.
But that isn’t always real and it isn’t always true because life gets messy and hard and confusing. And sometimes we need a perspective shift in the midst of our wandering. And those that know the heart of the Father also know the way around the mountains that stand in our way. They are familiar with the prevailing prayer that James 5:16 talks about. Often as aware of their own unqualified status as we are of our own, so humility has a chance to abound where pride steals and destroys possibility.
And if this gathering we need to do is really more than a suggestion, then what does it really look like?
It looks like grace.
Yes, grace. A favored response to others with no qualifying prerequisite to hinder our giving it. What I love about looking through the lens of grace is that it sets me back in the midst of that swell of souls. It makes me be with people on purpose. It challenges me to look closer at people and see them. It reminds me that faith and skin and politics are not what define us as much as being made in His image unites us.
Because we are made in His image, each.one.of.us. Whether we choose to reflect it, or embrace it, or own it is entirely a different matter.
But that woman on your left, the one who rubs you wrong…
And that child right in front of you, the one that wears on your last nerve…
Or that family member that you’ve ignored, the one that calls you out every single time…
They see the image you project and they’re watching to see if you are going to hold yourself to the same standard you hold others to…you know the one that says we can’t connect ’cause there is too much that divides.
It looks like love.
Yes, love. The putting self aside because Jesus said that those who are first will be last. The kind of love that doesn’t earn favors but pushes through and entreats because there is something more than being noticed for ourselves. If we truly are the image bearers, then they will see Him in us and not ourselves
Because the more we decrease the more He increases and the entire result is the love that covers a multitude and judges not but labors long and chooses to see the miracle that only a hope in the One who is everlasting can spark.
But when forgiveness to the offender isn’t easy, ’cause it means you have to give up your claim…
And you are bound to that difficult relationship, the one that seeps joy right out of you…
Or those blessings of others we covet, the things that we see others receive and yearn for…
They are lessons we are meant to traverse and to glean and to learn and to let go of. They are the tokens we lay at the throne of grace where mercy flows and we become a conduit and receptacle all at once.
Because the well He pours from is really an ocean that is limitless and love really does fix the broken things right. And we really can spend time with people regardless of what they look like or sound like or act like knowing that if for one moment we are a light that shines His hope, we have brought the gospel ever closer to their heart.
It looks like Jesus.
Yes, Jesus. The Deity that set aside heaven so that He could be with His wayward glory dwellers. The One who was there at the beginning and made the sacrifice to carry our sin, on purpose, to bring us back to the Father. The Intercessor who sees our brokenness and yet bled holy blood so that we would be made wholly white.
It means we draw lines in the sand silently standing by those who have no excuse.
It means we sit at a table with people without qualifying their status to break bread.
It means we hold tenderly those who are hurting offering them tangible hope instead.
Because it means for the ones who carry Christ, the very ones who seem to be hurting more than all the others, we let grace lead us to love and offer a sip of both. And we dwell a little deeper in the knowledge that only counting grace and gathering moments seems to provide…an endless opportunity to learn to love others and let their differences refine us not define them.
As I sat at that table, I recognized that only a few of the people present went to the same church. Only a few shared the same theological philosophies. Only a few had similar backgrounds and passions. And, except maybe a few, we all confessed to be Christians.
For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.”- Matthew 18:20
As my friend was recounting what God revealed to her heart in prayer, I was reminded of this deep and abiding compassion He has been building in my heart. A passion to pray for people. To bring heaven right to their doorstep, regardless of their church or their pastime or their differences. Because somehow, when I look closely… when I see them as He does… when I look through love and grace, then I am moved to pray for their struggles and victories. I am bound to weep when they break and rejoice when they win. I learn to lean into their living and be taught a different way of humility and I can appreciate the power of the gathering together in a whole new way.
And when we do that… we find we are known, not for what we say or who we are, but whose we are. Because He writes Himself upon our hearts and makes a way for us to know Him more through the people He brings our way as we gather together.
How are you counting #gracemoments in your gathering spaces today?
IT’S YOUR TURN TO BE A GRACE COUNTER! SHARE YOUR GRACE MOMENT IN THE COMMENTS BELOW AND THEN COUNT GRACE WITH A FRIEND WITH COMMENT ON A BLOG OR TWO.
If you are a blogger, link up here with a post about finding grace moments in your life or one of your favorite inspiring and encouraging posts from this week. Share your thoughts in the comment section telling me about the #Grace Moments you experienced this week. *(only 1 post per link please)*
Take time to visit your neighbor next to you, and if you want visit a few more friends on the journey. We all need a little encouragement and affirmation as we travel together.
If you don’t have a blog, you can connect with me via my Journeys in Grace FB page by sharing a photo or a comment. Or you can join the party by sharing your images on Instagram with #Gracemoments hashtag.
Each week I will try visit as many of your amazing posts as I can.This is a safe place to sit and dwell in grace together, friends. I can’t wait to pour a cup of friendship with you and take in the grace moments you have to share. Don’t forget to leave a comment below, I love to hear from you.