It's a question I've heard before. Last night I heard it again....
We were talking about an acquaintance who, for several years, has been cradled in a very loving and gracious community that has poured out grace until it hurts... but this person continues to fail... fall... lie... struggle... and rise... and fail again... and sometimes we wonder, "How far does grace go?"
We should wonder this, really. It makes sense.
We want a limit to the screw up count. We need to see progress or we question the formulation of the equation. Something must be missing... something must be wrong... This isn't a bad assumption.
How far does grace go?
Last night I just shook my head and shrugged. I don't know. I know we can't control others... only ourselves... but I don't know!
But today I had a thought...
It goes as far as it needs to. And then there is someone else to carry it on.
The most effective execution of grace I've ever seen in action is the Volley Ball method... one person gives what they can, then they bounce the need to someone else who is there to throw their giftedness into the pot too. Together they function to keep the ball rolling.
We are full of limited grace... but with our powers combined we create this net that can lob a struggling soul from one patch of love to another. Some patches are tough love. Some patches are compassionate love. Some patches are physical love. Some patches are spiritual love. It takes all of the above, but no one person can man all those bases at once. We haven't got enough grace to love someone whole. We only have enough grace to love one part really well.
We only have as much grace as we have. And that's as far as our grace goes. Only community can love wholly. So when our grace runs out, someone else's grace can take over.
It's true in churches, marriages, friendships, parenting relationships... no one person can give you all the grace you and your soul needs.
He needs your love, but he also needs to go talk man talk around a TV screen or a fire pit.
You need his care, but you also need margaritas in fancy glasses and long conversations about lady problems.
They need your particular brand of crazy, but they also need someone else's particular brand of sane.
How far does grace go? Not far enough for one person to give it all to you.
Here's a wonderful little miracle of design: Grace is a renewable resource. It can be emptied and filled and emptied again. A little rest. A little intentional recovery, and boom we have more grace to give. Praise! (It's been said before, it'll be said again... That's why a little self-care is so radically necessary. You can't give grace you haven't received for yourself.)
Two take aways...
1) Don't be afraid to step back and recharge your grace tank.
There are a million ways to do it. Sometimes it's going to involve studying the Bible in "quiet time." Sometimes it's going to look like putting on your hot pants and dancing to "Living La Vida Loca" with your girlfriends. (Just kidding, no one plays that song anymore.)
2) Don't be offended when people around you have to step back and recharge.
Sometimes you're going to reach out for grace, again, and the person you're reaching out to is going to get this crazy twitchy look in their eye and have nothing to give. It's ok. They still love you... Step back slowly. Take a deep breath. Don't take it personally. (This is going to be HARD because you're already feeling like crap... otherwise you wouldn't be clamoring for some grace in the first place.) But don't worry. They're not gone forever. They'll be back. They just need a little time to fill up their cup. If you let them do that without pitching a hissy fit, you'll be happy in the long run.
(PS This totally happened with me and my husband this morning... which is kind of what started this... I was like, "Waaaaah!! January!!" and he was like, "Babe. I can't even. Bye." O___O)
Ok, that's all. Give grace. Take grace. Give space. Take space. It will all come back around.
How far does grace go?
In a way it's endless... it never really dries up... because its origin is bigger than us, right? The heart of grace is in God...we're just agents. So, sometimes you have to give it a rest! For your sanity. For theirs. For the love! Don't worry. He's big enough to handle you taking the bench for a sec.