The young woman sitting in the back row caught my eye. She had tattooed arms and brightly colored hair. I don’t remember what color her hair was that day; it’s tough to say. Jordan changes it regularly.
Could have been Alpine Green – she’s worn that color, and many more. Rosy Red. Spring Green. Lagoon Blue. Plum Purple. Flamingo Pink. Wine Purple. Fire Orange.
Just to name a few.
Anyway, I remember thinking as I sat down for the start of our church service that Sunday: What’s her story? A few minutes later, she was introduced as our new youth minister.
And I thought: Hmmm. Now I’m really intrigued. What’s behind those tattoos and that shade of hair?
Jordan gets that reaction a lot. She embraces it and uses it to connect with people – well, most times.
She told us how one time she was headed home from church, carrying her churchy stuff in a bag, and she stopped at a store. Behind her in the check-out line was a couple sizing her up.
The man noticed Jordan’s churchy stuff and said something negative about people with tattoos. He suggested – very judgmentally — that she should learn to treat her body like a temple.
Jordan reassured him that she does indeed consider her body to be a temple. The tattoos? Those are her stained-glass windows.
The man frowned. His wife smiled.
A few weeks ago, Jordan shared another story. She was in a restaurant and a lady at a nearby table stared at her as she ate. When the lady got up to pay her check, she headed straight for Jordan’s table.
Oh Lord, Jordan thought, here we go again! I’m not in the mood for a lecture about hair or tattoos. Please, not that. Not now. Jordan pulled away emotionally. Just shut down.
But instead of criticizing her, the woman smiled and complimented her on her blue hair and how it matched the blue rose tattoo on her shoulder. They had a kind, wonderful conversation. Jordan’s moment of dread turned into a moment of grace.
And Jordan used that moment as a reminder: “You have to allow grace to happen.”
Ain’t that the truth?
Nobody knows exactly how it happens, but we know that it does. Grace isn’t a magic wand that takes away all of our problems and gives us whatever we want. Instead, it gently and persistently offers us what we need.
The thing is: We have to work with it. We have to give it the space and the time and the cooperation to do its thing. We have to trust it.
Which is challenging, isn’t it?
For one thing, grace has a way of surprising us. In fact, grace almost always involves some sort of surprise. Grace = Surprise.
Often, it’s more like: SURPRISE!!!!!!
Grace has a track record of showing up when we least expect it, touching us in ways we never imagined, urging us to do things we never thought possible. It leads us into unexpected relationships, points us toward new places, helps us get started on significant and much-needed changes.
Grace fulfills us in ways that we never even knew we needed. Grace takes us to places we never imagined. Grace saves us, over and over. Sometimes, from ourselves.
I suppose that’s why we fight grace so much. We love a certain amount of predictability and control. We want to do things our way, in our time. We want to stay just as we are. We prefer our comfort.
That’s not the graceful way.
Grace turns our lives upside-down in many good and needed ways. It extends a hand and offers to take us someplace that’s better for us.
And along the way, it has the audacity to enlist us as grace-givers. To become people who let grace work through them. To become people who bring grace into the world.
It’s always there, this thing we call grace. In every moment, in every place, in every way. We just have to pay attention and recognize it. Sometimes it presents itself in a nondescript form. Other times, grace shows up wearing vibrant, eye-catching colors.
Flamingo Pink. Wine Purple. Fire Orange. Just to name a few.