Revealing the Gritty, Grubby, Unpopular Truth about Grace You Need to Know Now

woman by shore

 I’ve been in one fight in my life. In college. A friend was encircled by several, on the ground in the dark receiving blows. Hurting, outnumbered people evoke a primal reaction in me.

May I be so honest as to admit – besides the defense of my children – nothing incites a fight in me like arrogant smugness towards someone else’s pain.

My spirit animal is a bantam rooster.

bantam rooster

With that being said, I try to stay out of fist fights these days. You know, they’re not so fashionable on the forty-three year old wife, mom, Jesus-lover scene.

I try to fight smarter instead. With words. Not angry ones but healing ones. Under the banner of love, understanding, and grace.

And I find that grace is a widely misunderstood concept. You see, it doesn’t own a set of dress clothes. That’s why we don’t often see it in our churches. It’s not hipster or preppy. It doesn’t own a cardigan and can’t afford Starbucks.

It’s bloody. Dirty. It has mud under its fingernails and scraped knees and elbows. At its inception, its back was sliced to ribbons and its temple stabbed by thorns.

We don’t recognize it because it’s unlikely to cross its legs on a pew or cushioned seat. It inhabits ditches and cells and tear-soaked pillows and shattered hearts.

Have you seen it?

There came a point in my life when God loved me too much to allow me to continue in haughty self-righteousness. That’s a painful correction, friends. A trip behind the woodshed that I don’t recommend. When I tell you I have a healthy fear of the Lord, you can know it is because I know his discipline.

And his grace. His beautiful, expensive, muddy, bloody grace.

This is what He taught me…

Grace is not weak or timid.

Grace isn’t passive. It is a wise restraint, a love, a compassion fueled by an awareness of one’s own depravity and the generosity of God.

The only requirement for grace is that it is undeserved.

If grace were ever deserved it would be a reward not a gift. For instance, people who withhold grace infuriate me. Self-righteousness is the offense Jesus spoke most harshly against. BUT. The character of grace means I must extend grace to those who withhold it, or I am indicted for the very same thing I accuse them of. Grace must always be circular and lavish and unwarranted.

The grace we fail to extend today may be the grace we need extended to us tomorrow.

There is a just economy to the administration of grace. I don’t recommend taking the field trip to learn this one.

Grace doesn’t mean there are no consequences for sin.

But it does mean correction doused in love, compassion, and forgiveness. God uses consequences to change us, not to punish us. Transformation is always the goal. And if we are meting out consequences for poor choices that should be our motive as well. You get this parents……we dole out extra chores or restrictions to teach our children a lesson or to prompt a change in attitude or behavior. Scrubbing baseboards as the highway to a kinder disposition towards an annoying little brother.

Christians need grace. A LOT.

We can think we needed grace when we were scalawag heathens and that we are holy givers of grace after conversion. That would be true if the process of our perfection happened instantly. Unfortunately, your route and my route to perfection may include a ditch or two. They’re brimming with spiritual value.

From The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, a former Franciscan priest turned vagabond evangelist…

There is a myth flourishing in the church today that has caused incalculable harm: once converted, fully converted. In other words, once I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, an irreversible, sinless future beckons. Discipleship will be an untarnished success story; life will be an unbroken upward spiral toward holiness. Tell that to poor Peter who, after three times professing his love for Jesus on the beach and after receiving the fullness of the Spirit at Pentecost, was still jealous of Paul’s apostolic success.

Often I have been asked, ‘Brennan, how is it possible that you became an alcoholic after you got saved?’ It is possible because I got battered and bruised by loneliness and failure; because I got discouraged, uncertain, guilt-ridden and took my eyes off Jesus. Because the Christ-encounter did not transfigure me into an angel. Because justification by grace through faith means I have been set in right relationship with God, not made the equivalent of a patient etherized on a table.

I am the worst of sinners. And so are you.

If we want a sin scale, the only accurate and biblical truth is to recognize, like Paul, that we are the worst. The safest and truest posture towards sin is acknowledging that we are capable of committing every single one.

We can’t fully grasp grace until we have needed it more than air to breathe.

Trust me, a girl doesn’t name her ministry Tenacious Grace because it has a nice ring to it. There is a depth to God’s grace that can only be experienced when lapping it out of beggarish desperation.

Grace is expensive.

Jesus died to broker grace. We are not to cheapen it with quibbling hesitance. Being a purveyor of grace will be costly. It may require a sacrifice of indignation on our parts. It may hurt to extend grace. That is consistent with how it was purchased.

Your opinions/feelings, my opinions/feelings have no bearing on grace.

Grace is not optional or selective. It cannot be. To make it such is to mar his sacrifice with our bloated self-worship.

God won’t stop until we have been changed by his grace. 

God is ever wooing us with his grace. He initiates daily encounters with his beautiful, expensive, muddy, bloody grace.

Daily brushes with his tenacious grace.

[Rooster Image: Marji Beach]
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  1. Martha Davis
    Martha DavisReply
    July 12, 2016 at 4:57 am

    Cookie, I have no words. I’m always amazed at your words when you write about grace because you are able to capture what it is . . . and what it ain’t. Most people don’t understand grace until they experience a large measure of it. Perhaps that’s why you describe it so well! Thank you for this!

    • Cookie Cawthon
      July 12, 2016 at 8:08 am

      Martha, it’s why my heart beats for marginalized people. It’s why this ministry is about coming alongside hurting, discouraged people. I really could fight somebody over grace….which is a paradox that’s all wrong and human :), but it’s the thumbprint of my soul.

  2. Kelli Dodgens
    Kelli DodgensReply
    July 12, 2016 at 9:33 am

    Love it!!!!!

    • Cookie Cawthon
      July 12, 2016 at 11:17 am

      Thank you for reading, Kelli! The grace with which Jesus navigated his time here on earth is incomprehensible to us. But as the Holy Spirit enables us to reflect God’s character more and more, we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). We grow in our ability to give and receive grace from Him and others. It’s probably apparent that I could talk about this all day… 🙂

  3. Renee
    July 12, 2016 at 9:55 am

    You have such a way with words. It is truly a gift! I completely agree with everything you said-thank you for speaking my heart <3

    • Cookie Cawthon
      July 12, 2016 at 11:24 am

      You are a gift, Renee! This wonky distribution of grace here on earth is perhaps the greatest “holy discontent” I experience.

  4. Patsy Bailey
    Patsy BaileyReply
    July 12, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    I only wish I was as eloquent with my words as you were in this verse. So many people, so little compassion, so little grace. Beautiful words on a subject so dear to my heart this week. Thank you and God bless.

    • Cookie Cawthon
      July 13, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Patsy. If we allowed the Holy Spirit to empower us to extend the grace and love and forgiveness and compassion Jesus modeled and commanded, the world would be different. And more lost, hurting people would be drawn to the Church.

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