Grace in the puddles

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Yesterday we played in the rain.

It was the perfect kind of rain, the kind of rain that falls with the grace of just a jacket will do and who needs an umbrella? and the puddles are really this deep? 

Puddles like swimming pools.

And they were in this Place. This place that is 250 miles away from my Tyler neighborhood but the beginning of my spiritual map. It’s my small-town Arkansas home, where the rain isn’t inconvenient because there are no meetings, no trips to the grocery store, no school pick-up lines. Just time and space for play; time and space to feel that it’s true: God is creator, orchestrator, weaver of this grace that after 32 years I’m finally seeing, feeling and {slowly} embracing.

I recently read about “Grand Gestures of Grace,” which is defined by the author (and paraphrased by me) as simple, ordinary actions that leave a life-sized imprint on the soul.  Mine is 25 years old—across the field, under the barbed-wire fence, on the other side of Eagle Babb Road at my grandfather’s farm.

Pond

The pond there was stocked with catfish, but really the best way to guarantee a catch was if you risked the tall grass and tangled brush of the evergreen tree halfway down the pond. (It was also a good way to get your fishing line snagged in thorns and branches.) One afternoon I begged my dad to please let me fish at the tree. He said no, but I persisted and soon enough we moved from the smooth front of the pond (and the submerged tub for caught fish) to that spot 50 yards away.

We caught one—as I knew we would—and my father freed the hook from its mouth.  I hadn’t thought about the process beyond that moment, because I didn’t expect my dad to slip his hand back into the fish’s mouth, its teeth biting his fingers and my dad using the fish’s clenched grip as a tool for carrying. He trekked back to the front of the pond with the fish hanging from his hand, toward the tub resting in mud and gray water. The red blood from the catfish’s bite covered and swirled across his wet wrist and forearm.  I think I said, “I’m so sorry, Dad.”

Amy_dad_farm2

McDavid says in his essay that there’s a “sadness of grace,” and that the sadness comes from “the suspicion of unworthiness which accompanies any reception of an act of love.” Persistent and self-absorbed, I was unworthy of my dad’s sacrifice that day. It was perceptible to me then that—because of his love—he didn’t tell me that fishing at the tree meant he would bleed and that it would hurt. I was ashamed, but I was just a child.

Now I’m an adult, and I haven’t grown out of the sadness. I’ve felt unworthiness deeply, and I guess that’s part of the point, right? That we are unworthy, and that we have no capacity to give ourselves worth.

“What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:4)

But ending there—with that feeling of why would anyone give me the sacrifice of love?—is telling an incomplete story, and this is what I hope my children understand:

That no job, no house, no person, no love, no skill, no education can validate their existence.  We are made worthy because Christ is worthy, because we were made worthy through him. That by his grace, we were made in his image.

And not allowing love to envelop that unworthiness and shame is saying that His goodness is not good enough. That His arms were not spread wide enough.  That His promises aren’t true enough to sustain us when parenting has made us tired, frustrated and broken.

It is missing those moments of grace, like that day we needed to play in the rain.

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