December 4, 2013

Strong in Grace

Paul's words caught me, tugged at my heart this afternoon as pages fell open to 2 Timothy 2:1. 
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 
How many times have I judged someone's strength by their outward appearances, or the witty replies of their minds? 
How many times have strong ones crumbled, fragile as dust, behind doors slammed shut or feet pounding away? How many times have the strong ones felt weak standing against comparison's dark army? How many times have I thought myself strong for scaling a hill only to find a sheer rocky cliff awaiting me?
So the strong ones are weak, and I wonder how I can be strong. But the strong I need, deep down inside, is not the strong of this world, but a Jesus-type strong. 
And the Jesus-type strong is grace. 
Years ago my ballet teacher told of feathery light movements, steps so soft and effortless looking - grace embodied. Peel back the feathers, she said, and underneath there is always strength hard as iron. Because grace is strong, and strength is shown by grace. 

The strongest kind of strong is always and only embodied like Jesus, grace Himself. 
Strong touched the lepers. Strong spoke with and loved sinners of the worst kind. Strong endured physical pain and torture without calling down vengeance from heaven. Strong hung dying a criminal's death and said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." 

Strong was grace. 

But the strongest kind of strong - this strong in grace? To the world it looks like weakness. Why are ballet dancers often portrayed as frilly, wimpy girls twirling and standing on their tippy-toes? Why are grace, vulnerability, and forgiveness thought of as qualities of a weakling? 
The answer is simple, spoken by Jesus himself: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." 

So to become truly strong - in grace - I must choose to disregard the voice of the world, of those who are strong without grace. And I'm making that choice again today, to shine strong on the inside by grace on the outside, touching the lepers in my life, loving the sinners, hanging forgiving when others do me wrong. Today I'm choosing to be strong in grace. 
How about you? 


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