Saturday, May 9, 2009

Embracing Grace

On the heels of "Grateful for Grace", I want to spotlight another fantastic post by Ray/Papa D: "Embracing Grace". He "gets it", and getting this makes all the difference. Some highlights:

We have been saved by the grace of God. That salvation started when Jesus voluntarily offered Himself as our Savior prior to the creation of the world, continued when He was born of Mary, deepened in the Garden of Gethsemane and on Golgatha when He hung on the cross, declared "It is finished," and "gave up the ghost" - and culminated on that Sunday morning when He rose from the tomb, appeared to Mary, ascended to His Father, and became the first fruits of the resurrection. The implications of that grace are enormous and too often misunderstood...

2 Nephi 25:23 is the most quoted verse about grace in Mormondom. It says, “It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” Many people believe that this means we are only saved if we do all that we can do - if we obey every commandment to the best of our ability. That simply isn't in line with the rest of our scriptures and, more importantly, it leads to unnecessary stress and anxiety about whether or not "I am doing enough." I see this all the time in my discussions with [my wife] and as I listen to and read the blogs of many women, especially. Rather than seeing the grace of God as a freeing, enabling gift that already has been given, they often internalize it as a reward dangling enticingly in front of them, ready to be withdrawn if they screw up too badly and fail to repent immediately. That leads to guilt and pain and lack of self-confidence, instead of the rest that is promised so beautifully in Matthew 11:28-30.

When I read 2 Nephi 25:23, I explain it by employing a common linguistic technique - switching the phrases to reflect the proper emphasis. In this case, the sentence becomes, "(Even) after all we can do, it is (still) by grace that we are saved." Of course, we are to try to do all that we can do, but exactly what we can do pales in comparison to what He has done - saved us by His grace regardless of what we can do. It takes the pressure off of us and puts the focus where it should be - on His incomprehensible grace that so fully he proffers us.

I believe an understanding of grace is fully realized when one stops fighting God's grace - when he realizes that all God wants is his willing mind and heart - when he quits worrying about his individual worthiness and starts focusing on his contribution to communal unity - when he simply lays it all at His feet and says, in essence, "I know you understand my weakness; I know you know my struggles and pains; I know you know how I feel about myself; I know you love me and have bought me, anyway. From now on, I will trust your promise and, despite my continuing frustration and my continuing weakness and my continuing failures, I will bounce back each time and continue to grow. I will not despair; I will accept my weakness and imperfection and failure, knowing you don't care, because you love me, anyway. I will get back up each time I am knocked down and continue to walk toward you, until you embrace me and say, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant' - knowing I don't deserve it and being eternally grateful for the grace that so fully you proffered me."


NM said...

Great post Clean Cut!


Papa D said...

Thank you, MH. *grin*

Bruce in Montana said...

Thank you for that last paragraph. That is beautiful. I think I'll print it out and put it on the fridge to ponder.

Tom said...

Lately I've tended toward this interpretation.

manaen said...

I agree with you.
Sis. Elizabeth Rasband's "Confronting the Myth of Self-Esteem" helped me understand -- and it was very necessary for me to understand -- that we need peace and a key part of obtaining it is that we can never do enough to earn God's love and *the good news is that we don't need to!* I've found that there is a huge diffeence between feeling good and feeling good about myself, who is so riven with things about which to not feel good. Just step off the trying-to-earn-it treadmill and rejoice in God's superabundent grace! As Sister Rasband wrote, when your light flickers, blow it out -- and then walk in God's much greater light/glory.
A key verse for me in depending upon God's grace to feel OK about returning to His presence is,
[1] Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and
[2] let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly;
the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
(D&C 121:45)
That's it, charity and virtous thinking. Elder Dallin Oaks' 10/2000 GenCon talk on "The Challenge to Become" is helpful to me in understanding that the gospel isn't about behavioral deposits to be made, but how our experiences can help us become converted / have our natures changed and that we are to become charity. Having become someone who qualifies, not earns, for the gift of exaltation is all we are to do. This gift is a a gift of grace, as is the cleansing of the atonement that allows us to receive it after having sinned.
As for being save by grace after all we can do, I find comfort in the explanation in a recent GenCon talk by a speaker whom I forget that it's important to understand what "all we can do" means. He pointed to Alma 24:11,
And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do, (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to atake them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain.
"All we can do" = "repent." Repenting really is all we can do isn't it. Everything else before, during, and after that is grace.