I’ve been thinking a lot about grace recently. As a Catholic Christian, it can be quite a sensitive issue when talking to those of other denominations or faiths. There are a lot of preconceptions and misunderstandings relating to it.
Firstly, I’d like to just say as a sort of side note that as Catholics, we believe in grace far more than people give us credit for. We, too, believe that nothing can be done without it. We believe we are called to do things, not in our own strength, but by the grace of God. (On a complete side note, the Lutherans and Catholics published a joint document on justification if you are interested!)
Having said that, it is true that there is a very dense moral theology in the Catholic tradition. When you study it (as I rather painfully have!), you realise how completely and utterly it is drenched in the Bible, the Word of God. But we believe that, by the grace of God, we can lead lives worthy of Him in a particular way.
Recently, I was on a train journey, when the train pulled into a station where I saw on the opposite platform a little girl and her mother. As the mother turned her back for a few minutes to rummage for something in her suitcase, I watched from behind a smile as the little girl started to hop around the yellow line that us adults know all too well we should stand behind.
She had obviously been told about this rule. But as soon as her mother’s back was turned, she started to edge closer and closer to the line. Then onto it. Then over it. She quickly hopped back behind it. Then the whole process started again.
As I watched the little dance she was doing, I wondered if maybe sometimes that was what I look like to God. Sometimes, it is less obvious to us why we are told to “stand behind the yellow line”, but for our own safety, God paints it in clear colours anyway, and instructs us to remain behind it.
But I know the little girl’s game. I have edged my way to the line before, then thought: “well, perhaps if I just step onto it, that would be ok.” And then, suddenly, it doesn’t seem so far to just dip a toe over the line. And the my whole foot. Then maybe the other.
Before I know it, I’m knee-deep in sin and full of regrets. I risk my safety, my salvation, for something so small and momentary.
But that is when God does something amazing.
He gives me the grace to step back over the line. And sometimes, often, I do the whole dance all over again. I resent God putting the line back in place and return to my old ways. But everytime, he puts my safety first.
His so-called ‘rules’ are not there to “stop us having fun.” They are there to protect us, to keep us from danger. And when I forget that, he offers me grace.
What about you? Do you recognize the little girl’s dance? Have you experienced God’s grace in those moments when you feel you’ve edged over the line?