Running haphazardly through the parking lot, my children were eager to scope out the hotel where the conference was being held. We entered the lobby and were welcomed by the friendly faces of strangers greeting us; it was clear that everything had been carefully planned and prepared to support our family in cross-cultural service. A few minutes later, after seeing the spacious and clean hotel room that would be ours for a few days, I became overwhelmed by the care being shown to us. I sat on the side of the bed and cried.
In the midst of some challenges that ended up resulting in painful brokenness and the upheaval of our day-to-day lives, my family and I had traveled to a nearby country to attend a family education conference. We had questions about our kids, but we were also in the thick of experiencing burnout ourselves. The people organizing the conference had created a safe space for us and others, though, to get the help we needed. I later texted a friend, “I feel like we’ve had a life-saver ring thrown out to us.”
The times that I have experienced this kind of care have felt like an embodiment of grace, with an almost immediate relief that allows me to relax from the tensions I’ve held in myself. In these grace-filled places or relationships, where there is acceptance, affirmation, and encouragement, it becomes possible to be, to breathe, and to think clearly. It is such a gift from the Lord, that He sometimes provides tangibly through others this piece of what He offers fully in Himself. To claim and experience the grace of Jesus Christ really is like docking in a safe harbor, finding respite from the danger and tumult of the seas.
It’s a little embarrassing to be someone who proclaims the grace of the Lord—that His love rests on me, not based on what I do but who I am—yet still be so jolted when faced with the stark need for this grace in myself or in those around me.
Rather than finding safety in the grace of Christ, my tendency is to mindlessly evade the freeing grace that is generously offered to me, and to instead drop an anchor in the waters of self-criticism, judgment, and fear, succumbing sometimes to comparison and shame.
Not only are these attitudes crushing, but they are entrapping: resting in criticism causes us to expect a critical spirit in others, and in turn it can become all we’re able to offer as well. Inhabiting these harsh waters can alienate us from God and from others, and can further propagate in us a sense of toxic self-sufficiency that is completely antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In reality, the good news of Jesus Christ is the only gospel that is rooted in grace, and has a provision for weakness and for failures. We don’t have to be afraid of humiliation, or hide our humanity before the God who humbly entered into humanity and declared, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
We can therefore set our weakness and our failures before the Lord and allow His strength to work in us, even as we are wholly cared for and loved. When we dock in the safe harbor of the grace of Jesus Christ, we are bolstered and equipped to remain secure in His love, even as we face the stormy seas that we inevitably encounter—in ourselves or in others.
Looking back, the palpable grace we experienced at that conference is still striking; during a particularly difficult time, people we had never met before buoyed us with encouragement, love, and support, directing us toward the safe harbor of God’s abundant grace. The many small gifts of kindness shown to us there ended up making a significant impact in our lives over the next few months, enabling us to more fully rest in the grace of Christ and, in turn, more freely offer this grace to others.
Propelled by security in Christ, there is no need to fear the dangers we face—living in kindness and in grace reminds us of what we have with Christ, and it is just the kind of welcome into the safe harbor that someone else might need.
“Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.” Colossians 4:5-6
Is there a time that you’ve been buoyed by God’s grace shown through others?
How do you feel when you are in a grace-filled space, being accepted and affirmed?