Yesterday’s Upper Room devotional resonated with me and was especially pertinent to some of my experiences this summer. The scripture is from Colossians, and reads, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (4:6). Each day I talk, usually on the phone but sometimes in person, with people who are inquiring about the status of their housing repair application. They ask, “When will someone be out to look at my house?” “Where is the group that is supposed to finish my project?” “Why hasn’t anyone returned my phone calls?” “Who will help me fix my leaking roof?” Yesterday, close to 5:00, Ms. Williams called and asked these questions. She was clearly very frustrated because she was under the impression a group was going to come and finish her project, but they never showed up. “When are they coming?” she asked. Ms. Williams continued to explain, a few times, how she wanted–she needed– her roof to be finished, all the while her frustration (and mine) building. The conversation ended when she hung up on me.
These conversations occur on a regular basis at my job. It is frustrating that we can’t serve everyone at once– for those in need and for those trying to help. And, that we don’t have any money, and that not every group knows how to replace a rotting roof with a new one in 4 1/2 days. We shouldn’t have to choose which family is going to have a safe, dry home or which elderly woman is going to start living with electricity and running water in her home. I am thankful that I read the Colossians passage yesterday morning, because despite the enormous frustration I have experienced with my job, like my conversation with Ms. Williams and its abrupt ending, I hung up the phone and remembered the importance of a grace-filled response.
Just Wednesday night I was talking to Annie and Mom on Skype, letting out some other frustration I have been experiencing pretty much all summer. Mom reminded me to “take the high road.” I have heard this all my life, thankfully, and although I mess up (of course) and don’t always choose the right path, I felt like I had been taking the high road regarding my relationship with this person. However, after I thought about it, and certainly after reading the scripture reminding me to always season my conversation with grace (and salt), I realized the obvious. That I can pretty much always be more grace-filled.
I don’t know about anyone else, but for me it is way easier to be grace-filled toward people I am comfortable with, really like, and enjoy being around. It’s like if my best friend or role model or crush calls me 30 minutes before I’m supposed to go out with them and says she/he will be late, I’m more likely to respond positively and like it’s no big deal, because spending any time with them is worth the wait. However, if someone who really speaks and acts as if the world revolves around them, with whom I really don’t care to spend my extra time messes up my plans, I am thrown into a bad mood and full of negative thoughts. It is in these situations where I really need to practice seasoning my words (thoughts and actions, too) with grace.
Grace isn’t about who is wrong or right; it’s about recognizing the unimportance of trivial disagreements or differences and giving someone the benefit of the doubt. It’s not really about fairness or equality, either. Just because I gracefully invited my roommate to join my friend and me for supper on Monday doesn’t mean that I get a ‘free pass’ to be in a bad mood towards him every other evening that week, even if he is bothering the heck out of me. Some of the words the dictionary uses to define grace are good will, mercy, unmerited favor.
Clearly, and thankfully, Jesus did not tally up everyone’s past, present, and future mistakes before deciding to die for us. He chose to gift us with grace, and expects us to return the unmerited favor to others. If Jesus were alive on earth today, he would still be handing out “grace cards” to everyone he came into contact with, despite their rude, hurtful, or conceited ways. Speaking of “grace cards,” Mom gave us those at church a few years ago and I have mine in my wallet . . . . Maybe it’s about time to give it a new home where my eyes won’t automatically ignore it when I’m reaching in for a $5 dollar bill.