Grace tastes like this
By Christine Stephan
Originally posted Jan. 21, 2014, at Tiny Dart Frog. Republished and edited for length with permission of the author.
I'm Lutheran, a Lutheran pastor no less. Lutherans are all about one thing (well, besides Jesus — I mean we are totally about Jesus): grace. Lutheran theology is founded on this one overarching principle — that it is by grace we are freed and saved and given life. Namely God's grace.
But, and I mean this in all seriousness, what is grace? I mean, really?
I remember when I was in seminary I was taught a “working” definition of grace: being given more than you deserve.
And juxtaposed with “grace” was “mercy.” And mercy was: not getting what you deserve.
Seems stale to me. Seems like someone left the communion bread out for a few weeks and it started to grow green fuzz. That type of grace just isn't going to stick to my bones.
Maybe that's why Jesus used bread and wine. Something substantive. Something earthy. Something that fills the hollows of your bones.
Last summer I was having a conversation with a very good friend and it somehow must've been about God. I have no recollection of what we were actually talking about, but I know I used the word “grace,” because my friend looked at me and very matter-of-factly asked me what grace is.
Um, you know — the grace of God.
Um, like getting more than you deserve from God.
What do I get from God?
Um, well, everything. Everything is a gift from God.
Um, kindness, you know, grace is the promise of kindness.
CRAP. Grace is not kindness.
Kindness is getting a kitten out of a tree. Kindness is setting the table when your mom asks. Kindness is letting the lady behind you in the check-out line go ahead of you because she only has four items in her basket and your cart is overflowing.
I'm a pastor, for God's sake. I should be able to define grace, right?!
Anyway, as I said, this question about grace was posed to me more than a year ago, but this morning I remembered it.
I remembered it as I stood in my kitchen mixing pancake batter, frying up bacon, and making sure I did indeed have mini-marshmallows for hot chocolate later on in the day. See, school was canceled and the church offices were closed due to a “significant weather event” (i.e., we're getting snow here in D.C. and we really don't know what to do when it snows), so my boys and I were home for the day.
A whole day. Me and them. Pj's and pingpong. Snow drippings and red cheeks. Laundry and movies.
Emails and books.
As we ate a late, leisurely breakfast I thought, “Grace tastes like this — like pancakes and hot chocolate.”
I don't know how to tell you exactly what the grace of God is but I can tell you how it smells: like warm bread. Like milk, and eggs, and flour and vanilla all mingled together. Like dryer sheets (the kind that don't have that heavy perfume-y smell).
And I can tell you how it feels: like a fuzzy blanket on a snow-covered day. Like a hot mug of cocoa in red, chapped hands. Like cool, wet lips of a happy child on a warm cheek.
And I can tell you how it tastes: like fatty bacon. Like deep, red wine. Like licking sticky syrup off your fingers.
And I can tell you how it sounds: like deep breaths coming in from the cold. Like sniffly noses from hard played snowball fights. Like unrestrained giggling. Like — I love you. Always.
I cannot tell you what the grace of God is exactly, but somehow pancakes and hot chocolate come close.
Solid theology? I'm not sure. Solidly “of God,” I'm confident.
Find a link to Christine Stephan’s blog Tiny Dart Frog at Lutheran Blogs.
You might also want to read:
Can we lose God's grace?
Finding grace in a new way
7 things you might like to know about Martin Luther