By Kelly Johnson
“Grace always shocks. Grace always stuns. Grace is always what we need. It’s what everyone groping around lost in the dark has to know: turn toward grace and you turn on all the lights.” ~Ann Voskamp
She was waiting for me when I returned to my car. I could see right away she was furious.
“You are SO inconsiderate! You parked right in front of my mailbox! How dare you!“
My heart was pounding as I took a deep breath and considered my options. Perhaps a sarcastic comment about the wisdom of buying a house right across the street from a school? Or maybe I could just give her a dirty look, get in my car, and quickly drive away? How dare she lie in wait for me, then stand in the street screaming and shaking her finger at me?
However, since I had spent time in prayer earlier that morning, the Holy Spirit had followed me there and was whispering something else entirely.
She is hurting. Show her love. Show her grace.
A little disappointed to be robbed of my opportunity for a witty comeback or a dramatic stand, I decided to take the high road. I looked her in the eye and listened quietly until she ran out of words.
“I’m so sorry,” I said. “You are right. I shouldn’t have parked there. This must be so frustrating for you. I’m really very sorry.”
She paused and then, not knowing how to deal with my response, she turned on her heel and stomped back into her house.
As I got back in my car, I was still shaking with emotion. The intensity of her anger made me feel vulnerable, and I was still struggling with the desire to lash out at her in return. In the past, I would have felt justified in returning fire for fire, unloading on her in retaliation. On this occasion, proximity to the Spirit led me to choose differently.
I wish I could say I always choose grace.
Several years later, I had the opportunity to learn more about the woman I met that day when she signed up for a Bible study I was leading in our community. She called after the first meeting to apologize for her long ago outburst. She explained she had been intrigued by my kindness that day, so different from her expectations. Her curiosity ultimately led her to sign up for our study to find out more.
My decision to choose grace instead of anger that day ultimately made space for a new friend at the kingdom table.
In this one instance, God pulled back the curtain and gave me a peek at the way my choice impacted the life of another person. I am still amazed that, in spite of my mixed motives and spotty obedience, God can use me to show his love to another. Every time I choose grace, kindness, and love, God multiplies my offering and the kingdom draws nearer.
Lord, help us to choose our battles wisely. Although there is a time to speak against injustice, help us to always speak the truth with love. Remind us of the grace you have given us when we are tempted to respond with anger. Help us remember the great power in kindness, and fill us with your Spirit when we are faced with conflict. In all things, help us to choose your ways over the ways of the world so the world will wonder why. You are so good to us, Father. Help us to be good to one another. Amen.
Scripture for Reflection
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1 RSV)
Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. (Romans 12:20-21 MSG)
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)
Reach for More
This week’s challenge is to choose the radical act of extending grace in moments of conflict. Watch for opportunities to surprise someone with kindness instead of a more conventional response. Whether in the checkout line at a busy department store or with a family member in a tense moment, take a deep breath, listen with your heart, and respond with gentleness. Watch for other people offering you the gift of grace, thank them for their choice, and let them know how it made you feel.
Friends, please come back and leave a comment telling us about your experiments with grace this week. Tag someone you saw choosing grace and thank them for the gift they gave. Tell us how grace changed the world around you this week, how God spoke to you this week, or share your progress on social media using the hashtag #tgtreachformore. We would love to hear from you.
Kelly Johnson is a counselor, writer, speaker, and advocate. She leads a weekly Bible study and serves as chair of the board of directors at a local shelter for the homeless. Married to her high school sweetheart, she is the mom of two college-age daughters. Kelly writes about life, faith, and her newly empty nest at kellyjohnsongracenotes.com.