I just started reading Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy” and the opening chapter reinforced a theme that I have been experiencing a good bit recently. It involves asking where is God’s grace in this moment (or the correlated question of “where is God’s grace absent in this moment?”). One of the podcasts that I really like right now is primarily based around this question (thanks Conor for introducing me to the Mockingcast). It is also the question that directs Tapestry’s book group and movie group – in each we ask this question concerning the book we just read or the movie we just watched – we’re going to do this again when we watch “A League of Their Own”, there may not be crying in baseball but there is grace 😁) . Part of the beauty of this question is that whenever we actually encounter God’s grace it calls for us to respond. I’ll use a puppy from the Minnesota Basset Rescue to explain what I mean here.
Pam and I are obsessed with basset hound rescues. Two of the three basset hounds that have been a part of our lives have come from the Loozianna Basset Rescue and we are so thankful for these amazing people who care for these lovely dogs who have often been put through hell on earth. So we get our dogs through basset rescues (seriously who could have mistreated Clive, the greatest of all dogs), go to basset hound events that are sponsored by these basset rescues, and we subscribe and interact with their social media accounts to enjoy and encourage the great stories of recuses that happen through these agencies. This past week the Minnesota Basset Rescue saved 4 puppies from two different bad situations. The photo to the right is of Willie one of the three 4 month old bassets that the MBR rescued. Don’t you just want to say “Ahhhhhhh!”. It is hard not to respond to his cuteness … even for cat people. So let’s use Willie as an example of what recognizing God’s grace in a moment is like.
Lots of people will see Willie and think “how cute” and then go on with eating whatever pastry they are eating. It is a nice moment in their day but it changes nothing. It is a brief warm, fuzzy feeling, but at the end of it Willie stays in his horrific situation – and others might be put into similar circumstances because more puppy mills will develop to produce more consumable cuteness. The wonderful people at the basset rescues see such cuteness and think “Such cuteness cannot be allowed to stay in a horrific situation. THIS CANNOT STAND!” and then they work to change the status quo that would allow Willie to be in dangerous and uncaring circumstances. They see the grace of cuteness in horror and believe that such grace can be expanded to overcome the horror. Seeing such grace changes the status quo.
Let’s take a moment to enjoy Willie’s cuteness again – he’s the one in front.
Seeing God’s grace in a moment calls for gratitude for the grace in the moment and action to expand or continue such grace through other moments and in other lives.
So back to Stevenson’s book. In his first interaction with Henry, his client, Bryan Stevenson is very concerned that he doesn’t have the skills or knowledge to help Henry. Bryan isn’t a lawyer yet, he’s only a student. In fact, the only info he has for Henry at the moment is that they are looking for a lawyer for him, even though he has been on death row for two years, and that he will certainly not be executed in the next year. Not a lot of hope in such statements. Stevenson practices what he is going to say but the second he sees Henry he breaks down and begins repeating over and over “I’m really sorry”, “I’m just a law student, not a real lawyer”, and barely gets out “you’re not at risk of an execution anytime in the next year.”
Henry suddenly gets super excited upon hearing this news. Bryan Stevenson was the first person from outside death row that Henry had seen in two years. In those past two years he hasn’t seen his wife and kids because he was sacred that they would schedule a trip a and he would then be given an execution date while they were there. He couldn’t do that to his family. The uncertainty had led to him asking them not to come, even though he desperately wanted to see them. Now with knowledge that the next year would be free from an execution date he could see his wife and kids. The statement seemed so small and insignificant to Stevenson, but it was the gift of seeing his family to Henry. Stevenson saw God’s grace in the moment, especially when Henry began to sing as he was taken back to his cell, and seeing God’s grace changed him. Henry would no longer be alone, Stevenson would work to make sure of this.
God’s grace wants to expand. We need to look for moments of God’s grace and then work to cultivate the soil of our lives and societies for the expansion of such grace.
Look for His grace in your life. Let it expand. Encourage its growth.