Extra Credit Reading

Read this last night in the book I’m currently devouring.  Thought it was perfect timing considering yesterday’s post.  Timeless as well.  Doesn’t matter if it’s 50 A.D., 1870, or 2011, He never changes.

…so few people have any conception of what the grace of God really is.  To say that it is free unmerited favor only expresses a little of its meaning.  It is the unhindered, wondrous, boundless love of God, poured out upon us in an infinite variety of ways [like 20 bucks you don’t deserve], without stint or measure, not according to our deserving, but according to His measureless heart of love, which passeth knowledge, so unfathomable are its heights and depths.  I sometimes think a totally different meaning is given to the word “love” when it is associated with God from that which we so well understand in its human application.  We seem to consider that Divine love is hard and self-seeking and distant, concerned about its own glory, and indifferent to the fate of others.  But if ever human love was tender and self-sacrificing and devoted, if ever it could suffer gladly for its loved one, if ever it was willing to pour itself out in a lavish abandonment for the comfort or pleasure of its objects, then infinitely more is Divine love tender and self-sacrificing and devoted, and glad to bear and forbear, and suffer, and eager to lavish its best of gifts and blessings upon the objects of its love.  Put together all the tenderest love you know of, dear reader, the deepest you have ever felt, and the strongest that has ever been poured out upon you, and heap upon it all the love af all the loving human hearts in the world, and then multiply it by infinity, and you will begin perhaps to have some faint glimpses of the love and grace of God!

-Hannah Whitall Smith

The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life,  published 1870

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Part II: Supermarket Grace

It was my first trip back to the supermarket since my little lesson in generosity.  It was mid-day this time and I was dragging 3 unwilling participants.  We were making the drug store-grocery store-grocery store-grocery store  rounds and it was only round 2. 

5 things, only 5 things, I told myself.  I clutched my circular and coupons and headed down the aisles. 

The natives were restless, that was certain.  While I looked at toothbrushes, the boys picked up Magic 8 balls and were howling at the answers they were getting to life’s most important questions:  will I have a girlfriend,  will Mommy buy us a candybar….you get the picture.  And Strawberry Shortcake decided we needed princess bandages and was filling the cart. 

How many more stores did I think I’d hit today?

It had been a rough week.  Really rough:  just back from a short, but no less work, trip;  tempers still simmering and hearts still mending after a stress-induced marital spat;  Honeybun working obscene hours;  3 sick kids and 4 days stuck in the house.    Basically Mommy H-E-double hockey sticks.  For the first time in over 8 years of mommy-ing I thought, Please God, I want one of those easy jobs, you know, one of those 9-5ers where you throw the kids in daycare and talk to adults for the rest of the day?  I’ll take one of those.  Now.  And here I was adding salt to a gaping heart-wound by taking the kids shopping.  The proverbial cherry on top.

I was heading toward the liquid stain remover.  At least I was trying. 

2 steps. 

“Watch where you’re going.” 

3 steps. 

“Quiet down!  They can hear you 7 aisles over!” 

5 steps. 

 “No!  For the last time, I AM NOT BUYING YOU THOSE MAGIC 8 BALLS!” 

A sweet little old lady made eye contact and I smiled my, please-excuse-my-deafening-children-who-are-not-watching-where-they’re-going-and-may-bowl-you-over-at-any-moment smile.  She smiled back as we passed and I made my beeline for the promise of stain-free clothing.

I was wrapped up in reading all the particulars of pricing.  Sale on the small size, coupon for the bigger sizes only…Darn!  Miscalculation!

And there she was, next to me, smiling. 

“Here, I want you to have this.”

She thrust 4 crisp, 5 dollar bills toward me.

I stammered out a “No!”  and a “I can’t accept this!” but I knew that if I dug in my heels, her feelings would be hurt.  She looked so happy to give it.  I thanked her as well as my frazzled brain and mumbling lips would allow.  My mind was tripping over thoughts as I stood there and watched her walk away.

Why?  Did my coupons betray a tight budget?  I mean, I actually put on something other than sweat pants and DID my hair today so I didn’t look overly haggard.  And the kids managed to get out of the house without jelly smeared all over their faces and mismatched clothing, so we couldn’t look TOO terrible.  It couldn’t be that.  Did she just feel sorry for me and my small tribe of capuchin monkeys? 

And then I remembered that long forgotten but not long ago night at the supermarket.

Wait, God!  I’m supposed to be the one blessing others!  No!  This doesn’t make sense!  Really?  You’re gonna give me 20 bucks after I failed to give the last time?  This is crazy!

I expected a slap on the wrist, not this.  But oh, how He loves to do this to me!  Mercy instead of punishment.  And to that, a dash, no a full helping, of grace.  Mercy erased the consequences, grace added a blessing.

And there it is again.  It always comes back to this:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

In my mistakes, in my mishaps, in my down-right rebellion, He loves me.  Wouldn’t matter if I gave him the time of day or not.  He’d still love me.  I could curse Him, hate Him-  He’d still choose to go to the cross for me. 

And when I ignore His voice, when I hoard what He’s given me, when I’m too busy, too frazzled, too frustrated to remember, He sends a little old lady to remind me:

“Here, I want you to have this.”

His mercy.  His grace.  His love.  His great faithfulness.  Oh Lord, you are so good.

This I recall to my mind,
      Therefore I have hope. 
Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
      Because His compassions fail not. 
They are new every morning;
      Great is Your faithfulness.

                                                      Lamentations 3:  21-23