“If it's true I live in a world where hope has all but died, and if I really have a living love alive in me,
How am I letting it be known? How am I letting it be seen?
These are the signs, these are the signs of life: the love that proves there is a living faith inside…
These are the signs, these are the signs of life: the compassion and concern that make this world turn…
These are the signs of life!”

-Steven Curtis Chapman

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Unfairness of Life and Grace

A friend of mine, Tiffany, who went through a rather crappy situation was texting me the other day and she asked me what I thought about it. I told her I really didn’t know. Then she said something that made me stop and think for a minute. She asked, “Is there some life lesson in there somewhere, other than ‘Life’s not fair’?”

She and I have these conversations often. We talk about life, grace, grades, Christ and boys. I wanted to give her a wise answer that matched the depth of her question. So I thought…and thought… and thought. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something like, “God never promised us life would be fair.” It wasn’t enough.

I can't disagree with her. Life’s not fair. I couldn’t think of one positive about the situation she shared. It sucked, and wasn’t the “it’ll be better tomorrow” type. In that moment, life just wasn’t fair. And that turned me to looking at my own life: my folks are dealing with their struggles. I have friends who aren't doing great right now. I’ve dealt with one financial setback after another for three months. I’m battling loneliness, and going through a season of change in my life. [Anyone who knows me even a little bit can attest to the fact that I don’t handle change well. I literally have a mini panic attack every time my folks move the furniture.] It seems like everything at the moment can fit in the “it’s not fair” category.
So how in the world can I tell my friend it’s going to be okay? She’s right: life’s not fair!

But – maybe there’s more to it than that. My mom’s motto when I was growing up was, “If life was fair, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die on the cross.” Not what I wanted to hear as a screaming six year old, but still accurate.

Here’s my conflict: I have to praise God that life isn’t fair. “Fair” would mean that I’m damned to hell for my sins, for my disobedience to God. The cost of sin – the things I do that go against God’s laws – by their very nature bring me death, but God’s love for me and you is so crazy and over-the-top, He offers us life through Jesus. (See: Romans 6:23 and John 3:16-17)

If life was fair, Jesus would not have died for me. Yet, He did. He turned karma inside out when He offered grace. The “eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” idea is over; that “as you sow, so you shall reap” stuff is gone. It’s only because of God’s willingness to chuck FAIR out the window that I can even call myself a Christian!

So how do I reconcile these? How can I be upset that life isn’t fair and complain to God about it, when the only way I can even have the relationship with God in the first place is because He was willing to put fairness aside, and offer me grace? How can I simultaneously thank God for not requiring fairness, when I demand fairness in my own life in the exact same breath?
I’m still figuring out. But this is what I’ve found: my circumstances – fair or not – cannot change who I am in Christ. I know God is with me, and upholds me. [Isaiah 41:10] I know my peace is from God, because Jesus has overcome the world. [John 16:33] I know God Himself is my peace, and He is with me. [Psalm 46:1-3,7]

I think that my Jesus is the same as He was before I went into this valley, and I know He’ll be the same when I reach the mountain top. My circumstances outwardly may change, but it doesn’t change who He is. And it doesn’t change who I am: I am an adopted daughter of the King, who was only made a daughter by the unfairness of grace.
So Tiff, this is my real response to your question. I hope it makes sense.

“So although I don’t even begin to understand all of who this Jesus is, I’m going to praise God that He isn’t sane,that “he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Because that’s good news for a reasonable people like you and me. For we were safe and secure in our sins and indifference, repaying evil with evil, perpetuating the cycle of revenge, when God, who is rich in mental illness, and abounding in unclear thinking died and did good to those who never did anything good for Him. May we unlearn to do the same.” -Mike Donhey, of Tenth Avenue North

Embracing the unfairness of life and grace,

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I think that sometimes, God designs sunrises just for me.

In order for me to get to work on time three days a week, I leave my house at 6:20 AM. That means that at least three days a week, I see the sun rise over the edge of the horizon, casting light over the city and welcoming the new day.

Sometimes, the sunrise seems like just another every day event: it's expected. Sometimes I even get annoyed by it, because I drive East just when it comes over the buildings in the horizon, and it can be blinding.

But other times... other times, it's like God made the sunrise just for me. Similar to how my mom would pack me little, "I love you" notes when she made me lunch for those homeschooling field trips, maybe God is leaving me love notes via the pink and purple hues that ride the dawn. Maybe God's like a painter, selecting my favorite colors, knowing that the combination was just perfect for me.

It caused me to take some time to honestly thank God for everything He created - all too often I take it for granted. I wish I had my camera, so I could have captured the moment and keep it as a reminder (although I was driving, and that would have been dangerous, so it was probably a good thing...). It makes me wonder if God is up in Heaven, thinking, "Casey, I know you love these exact color combinations and you need some encouragement; I made this sunrise with you in mind!" I don't know if God thinks like that. I kind of hope He does.

Maybe the sunrise was for me, or maybe the sun just came up and I took the time to notice it. Maybe God's been working on my heart, which lead me to recognize beauty in what He's already made; maybe my heavenly Father knew I've been a little homesick for my friends this week and needed some extra love. I don't know. I think it might be a combination of everything... and it lead me to thank God for being the Artist that He is, who takes the simplicity of a sunrise and turns it into an encounter with holiness.

Maybe it was made for me, and maybe it wasn't. I really don't know.

But I can tell you that the sunrise was beautiful this morning.

Still amazed,