I was reading through some of Bo’s Cafe this afternoon, once again enjoying the rich story of a man finding freedom from the most powerful force out to destroy him—himself! Listen to this exchange between some people who really understand grace and someone who hasn’t yet got a clue what it is:
“Steven, do you want to know why you are clueless about you? …Do you?” She stops again and stares. “Honey, I really need a verbal nod of some sort here.”
“Yes,” I say, “Yes, tell me why.”
“It’s because,” she says slowly and dramatically, “you don’t yet know who you really are. And Steven, you don’t know who you are because you haven’t yet learned grace.”
I stop her before she can continue. “Oh, boy. See, there you go. That’s all gibberish to me. I don’t want to be mean, but you and Carlos, you sound like cult members. Grace. Do you have any idea what that sounds like? It’s right up there with fluffy bunnies and unicorns. You’re aware there’s not a lot of grace talk in my board meetings, right? Look, I know you may not understand this, but in places where things get done, there’s accountability, and quotas, and deadlines. You know what I think God wants? He wants all of us to take responsibility for what we’re doing. Sorry, Cynthia. I was tracking with you. But if you wanna make sense to me, throw away the religious buzz words.”
Andy slaps his knee. “Whoo-eee! Yep, you got her there Steven.” He picks up his glass, swirling his ice. “Yep, first you start talking about grace. Next thing you know you’re skipping Sunday school and sleeping in ‘til noon. Then, a couple days later you’re down at the dog track, drinking whiskey out of a paper bag and dating a showgirl named Tiffany!”
“Why do you enjoy making everything I say sound stupid?” I ask.
“I don’t,” he says. “I only enjoy making the stupid things you say sound stupid.”
Cynthia takes over. “Steven, my friend, would you be offended if I told you that you sound to me like the one with the religious platitudes?”
“Meaning,” she continues, “You sound like a carnival huckster, promoting to others something he knows doesn’t and hasn’t worked for himself.”
“Meaning?” I repeat.
“Meaning, grace is the gift waiting for the non-religious. They’re the only ones who can get it. They’re the only ones who can use it. Religious folk see grace as soft. So they keep trying to manage their junk with their own will power and tenacity. Nothing defines religion quite as well. People trying to do impossible tasks with weak and limited power, bluffing all the while like it’s working for them.” ” She leans even closer. “I just took in a lot of churches and religious institutions with that last statement.”
“Did you hear that?” Andy laughs. So, who’s the religious one now, my friend? “
Cynthia smiles. “It takes something a whole lot more than will power and tenacity to get anything done in the human heart. You gotta allow yourself to receive something you can’t find on your own, not keep bluffing at being strong enough.”
Andy folds his arms and raises his eyebrows at me.
“You’ll hear this next statement a lot around here Steven,” Cynthia says. ‘What if there was a place safe enough where I could tell the worst about me and discover that I would be loved not less but more in the telling of it?’ Do you know what happens?”
“Carlos says your stuff starts to get fixed.”
What Stephen doesn’t know yet, is that engaging real grace will transform you far faster and far more completely than accountability and human effort ever will. He will soon come to discover that God’s reality is far greater than he knew before.
If you haven’t read the rest of the story, you might pick yourself up a copy!