Grace Upon Grace


grace-upon-graceI came on board full-time with the Northstar staff back in August. In these last few months, I have learned that there are a number of incredible benefits that come with working for Northstar Church.

The most obvious of these benefits, and this really goes without saying, is that I get to work, every day, with a group of people who constantly encourage and challenge me to grow in my walk with Christ. This is something I’ve never experienced before in the workplace.

Other benefits are much subtler. They include, but are not limited to: laughing to the point of exhaustion on a nearly daily basis; eavesdropping on some interesting conversations amongst the young children of other staff members; working within walking distance of El Rodeo (the good one, AKA Gucci El Rod’s). It’s this last perk that brings me to the point of this blog post.

Since El Rodeo provides copious amounts of delicious food for affordable prices, we tend to frequent the restaurant quite often. Since it’s within walking distance, that’s usually what we do. We walk.

Each time we make that trek, I can’t help but notice a car that’s parked in a parking lot we pass through on the way. This car is parked in a way that, for lack of a better phrase, just irks me. It’s parked between two spaces. Every time I see it. And every time I see it parked this way, I am irked.

Now, some might walk by this car and say, “What’s the big deal?” After all, it’s parked in an area of the parking lot that is generally deserted. There might be two or three other cars around there, but they’re all spread out. If those spaces aren’t really needed at that time of the day, why does it matter that one car is taking up more than one space?

I like rules. I believe they exist for a reason. When it comes to traffic laws and parking etiquette, I believe these things exist to keep us and our property safe. For me, the lines that are painted in our parking lots are there so that we will all know exactly where to park our vehicles. In my eyes, to ignore those lines is to either be ignorant of the rules or arrogant, believing one is better than those rules.

Each time I see this car taking up multiple parking spots, I want so badly to find a piece of paper with which to leave a note under the owner’s windshield wiper. It doesn’t need to be a complicated note. Just something simple. Something along the lines of, “You’re a jerk.”

Another fun thing for me would be to get a couple of friends and have all of us park our cars around this car, effectively blocking it from going anywhere.

But what does that say about me? That I would be willing to exact some sort of petty revenge on someone I don’t even know? On someone who hasn’t even done anything to wrong me, personally?

Here’s the thing: Jesus died for the driver of that inappropriately parked car, just like He died for me. Jesus loves that car’s owner just as much as He loves me. As I write these words, I can’t help but wonder why this is such a difficult pill to swallow.

“For from his fullness we have received, grace upon grace.” – John 1:16

This is something I’ve found myself confronted with repeatedly in recent months. “Grace upon grace…” These are the words that Caitlyn Scaggs came back at me with when I attempted to point out what a jerk Santa Claus appeared to be in the classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special. These are the words that are literally tattooed on Erin Petersen’s arm. These are the words that I have clearly not been paying attention to.

Every time I stand in judgment of the person who parks his or her car in a way that I decide is incorrect, I need to be reminded that I’ve received grace. I should also extend grace.

Every time I get frustrated by the driver who cuts me off in traffic, I need to be reminded that I’ve received grace. I should also extend grace.

Every time I get impatient because the server has not brought my food within a time that I deem reasonable, I need to be reminded that I’ve received grace. I should also extend grace.

These are small things. But we also live in a world where there are big things. We live in an imperfect world where people genuinely, blatantly, sin against one another. In difficult situations, in difficult times, are we able to be reminded that we have received grace? Are we able to extend grace?

That grace that we have received doesn’t come from us. It’s not something we’ve come up with or manufactured on our own. It’s a free gift that we’ve received from God. It’s a benefit that we get when we’ve placed our faith in Jesus. The grace we extend to others? That’s not ours, either.

Under my own power, left to my own devices, extending grace to others is not my default setting. My default is to leave passive-aggressive, sarcastic notes under people’s windshield wipers. Without the grace that comes from God, I am incapable of extending grace to anyone. His power overrides my default setting.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9