I’ve had the words “A Space of Grace” in my heart and mind for the last couple of weeks. Right now I’m crammed between two car seats in the back of a minivan with obnoxious Christmas music (you know the kind I’m talking about) blaring and sleeping babies on either side of me. I can’t fit my shoulders between the car seats and there is a stuffed Wookiee sitting in my lap because there were no other vacant seats for him. (Hey- Chewie needs a place to ride too!)
This is not what I would call “A Space of Grace.” Why? Because I don’t fit. My presence is overwhelming this space. I have to change positions frequently. I’m keenly aware of the noise and potential to wake a sleeping baby with one wrong move.
So why are these words bumping around in my head again today?
Because it’s needed. We need to have it and we need to extend it to those in our world.
Let me try to define this “Space of Grace” and build a picture of what it looks like…it’s not a flat definition. This has some width and depth – it literally takes up some space.
Let’s start here: A Space of Grace is the space you give God and your heart to become who you are in Christ. It is not a place of condemnation and shame. It’s not a place of duty and efficiency. It is a creative and compassionate space. It is a space to stretch out and let God shine light in the most revealing and healing ways. We have to start here and understand that this is for us before we can move on to the next layer, branch, angle (whatever you want to call it). So take a deep breath and imagine what A Space of Grace looks like for your own heart. What is God wanting to speak into that space? Where is He shining light and creating new life in you? Do you believe that this is His desire? To gently transform you into an image bearer of His son?
Now, this is where I’m living with God right now: A Space of Grace for others. What does that look like? This is such a freeing and beautiful place to be. When we really begin to know how much He loves us – when we really believe, our hearts immediately turn with God towards those in our world. The ones we live with, walk with, work with, worship with and extending beyond that.
How do we create a Space of Grace for our families and friends? We can start here: We have to intentionally and consistently release them to God. We do this not in carelessness, but in prayer. We release our hold on them. Do we really want God’s highest and best for them or are we holding on to self serving motives? We hinder the work of Jesus in the lives of others when we demand that they serve our needs (whatever those needs may be – validation, support, apology, security). If you find yourself bristling at that thought, then go back to the space of grace for your own heart. There is room there 🙂 Stay there with God for awhile and ask yourself – Is He enough? When you have the wonderful beautiful answer, hold on to it and let go of everything else. Jesus is enough.
If we want to cooperate with God in the redemptive process in the lives of others, we have to surrender our compulsion to understand motives and simply LOVE at all costs! This is part of being hidden in Christ, crucified with Christ, and raised in the power of His life. What better image of Jesus than a life which pours out healing from brokenness and extends forgiveness to those who have pierced it most deeply? When we remain in Him, our brokenness will always reap a harvest of healing. Yes we are crucified with Christ and we are also raised with Him! This is a Space of Grace! A “Space of Grace” means we get our flesh out of the way of what God wants to do in the lives of others. It doesn’t mean we actually withdraw from them – we move as close as we can while remaining hidden in Christ. We keep our own biases, fears, and religious ideals crucified to the cross in our lives and move forward with God. And we move toward the broken, hurting people all around us. We extend “A Space of Grace” to one another.
One of the ways God has been taking this truth and rooting it in my heart is through a little plant I am fostering in our home.
When my parents made a big move last year, I volunteered to take care of my mom’s corn plant until they had a place for it. Ever heard of a corn plant? No – not the kind we eat. Not the kind that produces an abundance of that golden treasure and grows in acres upon acres. This is Dracaena Fragrans for those who know way more about what I’m talking about than I do. When I happily volunteered to take in the plant, I must admit it wasn’t only as an act of kindness to my mom (love you, mom). I actually had some of my own interests in mind. Plants are good for the air quality in your home. There’s also something aesthetically and mentally pleasing in seeing a living organism tucked in the corner of the room. Just nice to know it’s there – doing it’s thing. Converting carbon dioxide to oxygen and growing a little every day.
But here’s the thing. That promise of life-corn plant turned out to be a finicky little thing. It didn’t like where I put it. It seemed to want to be aimed in a different direction toward the window and it took some trial and error before the leaves perked up. Corn plants will do some crazy things when they aren’t “happy” or in a place where they can thrive. I wasn’t really happy with where it ended up – I wanted it in the corner but it did better right in front of the window. I remembered my mom telling me to be careful with how much I watered it because it had shallow roots. And I really began to resent that little plant. What good is a plant with shallow roots?! It’s in the way, it will never really grow, I have to be so careful with it. It’s just taking up space! Then came the Christmas season, and the corn plant had to be moved to make space for the Christmas tree.
I was further frustrated that it would be taking up space in our room (right in front of the window). I laid in bed several nights and stared at the silhouette of the corn plant, illuminated by the filtered moonlight. A curiosity was growing inside me. Where did the corn plant come from? Has it always had shallow roots? Why would God create a plant that could grow so tall and give it such shallow roots?!
I finally found some time to sit down and do a little reading about the corn plant. It turns out it’s natural home is in the tropical jungles of Africa, where it thrives shaded by the taller, fuller foliage. It’s roots grow much deeper than a potting bucket, it’s branches thicken, and its leaves come in a variety of colors. It even flowers and produces berries! Ok God, talk to me. (That was the prayer of my heart after reading several articles on the corn plant.)
We are not in our native home. This can make it a challenge to sink our roots deep. And how many times have we (just like my intentions towards the corn plant) pursued a relationship in our lives for our own motives (whether good or bad), then after taking that person into our lives find that there are things that annoy us, inconvenience us, open our eyes to all the ways that that person is in need of growth and a space that doesn’t take up so much space in our lives?
A space of grace is so needed. Which brings me to the final observation for now. The cross is the space of grace. It is the place where all annoyances, offenses, fears, and disappointments die. It is the place where Hope flows out of hurt, where beauty is reaped from brokenness, where pain is met with patience. What a beautiful space of grace He has given us. From here, we can go forward in the power of His life as long as we remain in Him.
I was pondering on what a life that is hidden in Christ might look like – what position and posture might it take? It came to me so simply and powerfully – it is a life lived with arms wide open – stretched out! This is the power of the gospel – the message of the cross! It is not a life lived with a posture of defense or scrutiny. It is not a life lived with beggars hands or tight fisted selfishness. It is an open life, crucified with Christ, creating a space of grace wherever you go. We can take root and grow there. One day we’ll fully be back in the place where we were meant to thrive. Until then, His space of grace is sufficient.
Way more sufficient than the back of this minivan.
I’ve made a space of grace for my corn plant. I’ve come to a new understanding and compassion for the little plant.
Why not make a space of grace for your own heart and the hearts God has placed in your care? Give yourself and others some room to grow.