Grace is a gift

May 17, 2024

As I write this it is early May. The leaves on the trees are still that new green that comes with spring. The lilacs are blooming with their intoxicating scent. The birds greet the dawn in the morning after a cold silent winter. The days are longer and there is sunlight. Baseball season is in full swing (pun intended). Garden stores are full of flowers and people. It’s finally safe to put in the garden. Spring.

But before spring there is winter. I don’t mean the picturesque dusting of snow on Christmas Eve. I mean the grimy snow you see on the streets for months that won’t melt and go away. I mean subzero temperatures and wind chills that rival the surface of Mars. Long nights. Short days. Wearing so many layers that we look like the Michelin Man. Snow accumulations that make driving impossible. Cabin fever. I grew up in Cleveland and live in Chicago, both cities on the Great Lakes where there is cloud cover for weeks and doctors prescribe vitamin D supplements because we haven’t seen the sun.

In a perverse way I treasured these winters because when spring finally arrived, I felt like I earned it. Like I deserved it. In some ways I’d feel a little guilty and uneasy when spring followed a mild winter. Why should there be sunlight and flowers when I hadn’t had to endure? Where was the justice in that? It was almost like cheating.

But spring does follow no matter what the winter was like. There is no earning it or deserving it. Spring comes every year no matter what. And it comes to the “deserving” and the “undeserving” alike. There is nothing we can do to make it happen and there is nothing we can do to prevent it from happening.

God’s grace is like that. It’s not contingent on our effort. It’s not a transaction—we do something, God responds. God doesn’t sort between “deserving” and “undeserving.” Grace doesn’t come for some and not for others. Grace is God’s expression of love for all people. Grace is a gift, and God is the giver.

Spring comes every year no matter what. And it comes to the “deserving” and the “undeserving” alike.

But this isn’t the lesson the world teaches. Nothing is free. No love can be so complete that it doesn’t demand something of us first. No love can be so sustained and sustaining that it doesn’t require our constant effort and vigilance. In this world there is the constant demand to perform, to measure up, to achieve, to get ahead. Think about it—our watches and rings have become fitness tracking devices. Even the success or failure of our sleep is tracked. There is no respite. Enough!

Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). Too good to be true? I believe this is the only good that is true. It is God’s love most clear on the cross. Love that is sealed as eternal in the empty tomb.

The Song of Solomon is a poem between two lovers, but it’s also a love song from God to God’s beloved. “My beloved speaks and says to me: ‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away, for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land’” (2:10-12).

It’s spring.

Read more about: