Grace and Grace Alone

It was after 8pm when we pulled into my in-laws drive way. Sage sputtered periodic cries of hunger and exhaustion from the back seat. Bryan and I were equally worn down from the hours spent at the car dealership. Our stomachs rumbled, but our hearts were full.

I cried when I walked out and saw the exact car my parents were buying us. I was amazed - awe struck. As I wrote before it felt like too much, far too much. And in that moment I fell completely undeserving upon their generosity.

But, I first felt myself choking up long before that. It happened as I told my mom about the radiation appointment Bryan had that morning.

I don't want to do radiation - I don't understand it, it doesn't fit well into my ideology, and I just plain don't like it. But, I can't even begin to describe to you how clearly we've known that this is the right next step for us. I don't want Bryan to do radiation, but I know that he's suppose to.

As I sat in that very public car dealership telling my mom about the appointment we also looked at the modifications that can be made to the car to accommodate a wheelchair for my daughter, Sage, down the line, as she is likely to need one. I could feel the lump rising in my throat and I could also feel myself raising my voice to talk a little louder. I found myself wanting the sales agent and others to know our situation. I found myself wanting their pity, their empathy.

It was not the first time I'd felt this. There have been moments where I've wanted to play the victim, wanted the pity of those around me. Most of the time I don't feel that, but every now and then that feeling rises up.

As we pulled up to my in-laws house surrounded by new car smell everyone came rushing out. Bryan's grandparents and aunt and uncle were there visiting from California as well as my parents who had left the dealership before us.

They all swarmed to see the new car. We were greeted with hugs and congratulations and Bryan's grandma said a number of times, "You deserve it." Perhaps my mother-in-law chimed into that chorus too and it seemed to be the general consensus of the group.

"You deserve it."

As I heard that comment something about it just didn't sit right with me, but I also felt the feelings I had felt sitting in the dealership, the desire for my struggle to be known and pitied, rise up again. "Yeah, we've been through a lot. We do deserve this."

Bryan later sobered me up, when he commented on how untrue it actually was.

"We don't deserve this car. That's the whole point."

That is the truth. We don't deserve this car. That is the whole point. It is grace to us. Grace from God acted upon by my parents.

There is something about pain. We are incredibly uncomfortable with pain, aren't we?

Because Bryan and I have experienced pain, and a twist in our road that seems completely unfair, those around us feel that we deserve and have earned some great tangible good. In fact I feel that too at times. I feel that my pain earns me the pity, help, and empathy of others. We are so uncomfortable with our suffering that we want to tip the scale back in the favor of those who suffer. We say it isn't fair. We want things to be more balanced.

We want the "righteous" to prosper and the "wicked" to be swept away with troubles and when it doesn't happen that way we feel that God has wronged us and those we care for. We believe that we are owed something better.

And when we see those who have been suffering given a massive blessing we feel they deserve it. It balances the scale for us a little bit.

In that moment of excitement, rushed upon by those who care for us, I felt we deserved it. We have been through a lot and in my pride I could say that we have walked through it gracefully and taken each hit in stride. I could cry out with Hezekiah and claim that I have "walked before [God] faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in [His] eyes." Doesn't that get me something? God owes me a good turn, right?

Oh, how very childish I am!

We all know on some level that our world is out of balance. That the suffering and pain we all have to face is wrong... is off...was not intended. We know in our souls that it wasn't meant to be this way. And we are right! But, how wrong we become when we begin to think that we are entitled to something other than suffering. When we begin to think that we are owed, or that we deserve, grace.

We want the scale to be balanced and fair, but it is not and it never will be. Life is unfair. As the writer of Ecclesiastes put it "the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God's hands, but no one knows whether love or hate awaits them. All share a common destiny - the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not." We will all face suffering of one kind or another. We will all face death.

We all fall into the hands of a loving God and each of us falls undeserving on his grace.

Grace and grace alone.

Rejoicing in the journey, Bethany Stedman