Have you ever had one of those days?
I was two seconds from purposely rear-ending the maddeningly-slow car in front of me. I had so much pent-up irritation, and I could just taste the satisfaction I would feel when our cars would hit and all the anger would exit my body. It would be like that Fried Green Tomatoes moment when Kathy Bates rear-ended the car of the girls who whipped into her parking spot, saying, “Face it lady, we're younger and faster,” and she responded by repeatedly hitting their parked car, saying, “Face it girls, I'm older and I have more insurance.” In my little world, we were saved from an accident because the car mercifully indicated an upcoming left turn when I needed to turn right. Glory hallelujah.
The day had turned south a little while before. Too many hours had been spent on a soccer field in the heat with a constantly-crying baby while we watched our team lose. We whipped home (easier said than done because my rear view mirror is now missing after my permit driver sideswiped a car yesterday) for a quick turn around for soccer fun round #2 with another child's practice. I managed to get dinner on the table in 5 minutes, and might have earned BIG POINTS for serving a Barefoot Contessa recipe in record time, but that possibility went down the toilet when I completely lost my patience over the spilled McDonald's milkshake on the backseat carpet of the car. (Note to self: good mothers do not buy their children McDonald's milkshakes. They cut up fresh fruit and bring it along to the game, and their children DELIGHT in the healthy refreshment. This is the stuff the mean voice in my head says to me when I am ready to lose it.)
So I got back in the car, and cranked the Christian radio station as loud as I could because the noise made me feel better. And I probably traumatized my child in the process and she'll probably never like Christian music and will always associate it with the psycho side of her mama.
A few minutes after I decided it wouldn't be a very wise thing to purposely cause an accident, a song came on that was talking about the grace we get that we don't deserve. Maybe because the music was so darn loud, or maybe because God is so good and worked on me even though I was really crabby, my heart softened a little. I grudgingly acknowledged to God that it was pretty nice of Him to constantly offer me mercy and second chances.
Then a song by For King and Country came on called “The Proof of Your Love.”
Listen to these words…
“If I sing but don't have love
I waste my breath with every song
I bring an empty voice, a hollow noise
If I speak with a silver tongue
Convince a crowd but don't have love
I leave a bitter taste with every word I say
(a little bit convicting…)”
And here's the deal. That song really hit me hard and had the effect that God desired it to. But would I have responded like that if the song about grace hadn't come on first? I doubt it. If “The Proof of Your Love” had come on right when I got in the car, I probably would have turned it off. It likely would have just made me madder.
God gets how I'm wired. He knows that love and mercy melt and soften my heart, and until that happens, I'm not very receptive to constructive criticism. I think most of us react to correction with defensiveness. Could this be because we haven't felt unconditional love first?
So how does God treat us? Does He say that the hurtful things we're doing don't matter? No, He loves us too much to leave us as we are. He can see how incredible we can be, and He recognizes what's holding us back. But instead of screaming at us about our sins, He's patient. He waits and when we turn ever so slightly to him, He runs to us. He's the father who runs to the prodigal son- ready to offer mercy the minute he sees his son return. This crazy, unwarranted mercy is what Jesus gave us. He took the fall for the very people who were at that moment spitting on, mocking and beating Him. He offers mercy FIRST. He leads with grace. With love.
And that really takes my breath away. Love is all about second chances. I'm so thankful that God lets us hit a “do over” button. That we can say I'm sorry, and come back home again for a fresh start.
I really believe that if more of us believed that God leads with grace, that He wants nothing more than to forgive, that there's nothing we can do that is further than the reach of His love, the lines at the confessional would be a whole lot longer. What holds us back? Why don't we rush into His arms of love? Maybe we need a new way of looking at God. Maybe we need to let go of our old ways of defining Him, and let His actions speak for themselves.
“The LORD's acts of mercy are not exhausted, his compassion is not spent; They are renewed each morning- great is your faithfulness!” Lamentations 3:22-23
*This post first appeared on the WWP website in November 2013.