The eggs have been found and gorged on (are the Mini Eggs gone yet? Is it safe to go to Target again?), the bunny has disappeared back to wherever it is that he lives, and people who only ever darken the doors of a fellowship at Easter and Christmas are off the hook for another 8 months. Jesus is risen, it is finished. So now what?
Every year, Easter has been a holiday that brings a ton of grief to my soul. The sensational images of huge spikes being pounded into wrists make me cringe year after year, and I spend the entire weekend crying, and wishing that Jesus hadn’t had to go through all of that to save us. My heart breaks over His sacrifice, and then I go home and eat the last of my stash of Mini Eggs (okay, I open the last King-sized bag I’ve been saving, and drown my sorrows in the most delicious candy in the world.), wake up the next day with a milk-chocolate hangover and go on about my business. He is risen indeed!
This year has been different though. This year, the Easter season began a lot earlier for me. The cross became my focus months ago, and as you know, I’ve been camped out there for most of this year, sometimes fighting to get as far away from it as possible, other times clinging to it like it were my own heart, the very muscle that keeps me alive.
The thing about a risen Savior is that the gift of salvation, the freedom from sin and the grace that He gave us deserves so much more than one weekend of celebration. The sacrifice of His life needs so much more than Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday services. We need to see that sacrifice and celebrate it every single day.
Recently the Father showed me an interesting picture of the way that I have perceived His gift of grace. I wish I could draw it out for you, but even my stick men suck, so, I’ll describe it the best that I can:
I am standing in front of a wall, carrying a bucket. On the wall is a big water spout and red button that says, “GRACE.” I put my bucket under the spout, push the button and watch as water begins to pour into the bucket, and eventually stops. I pick up the bucket, which is much heavier now, and walk away from the wall.
There is something so very wrong with that picture. It says that grace is not eternal, it is temporal, and that it can be measured. If I lie, I only need to fill my bucket about halfway, because, come on, it’s just a lie. I didn’t kill anyone. If I stole something, well, okay, I should probably fill my bucket up all the way, right? Because taking something that belongs to someone else is like, way worse than lying. And yeah, I brought two buckets this time, because I totally ripped into my kids today and made them both cry. Okay, but what about that really awful thing I did? The thing I can’t even forgive myself for? Well, I only have two hands to carry two buckets, and um, crap, the faucet turns off when the bucket is full, and um . . . I guess there isn’t enough grace for this one. I’m in big trouble here.
The other aspect of receiving grace this way is that there is a level of shame involved because there is only one place to receive grace – we all get it from the same spout. So, I’m standing here with my buckets, and you’re standing there with yours and well, look at both of us, needing grace again, dang it. Let’s just not make eye contact okay? Please don’t look at how full my bucket is!
Year after year, I’ve brought my bucket to the grace spout and carried that heavy bucket around with me until it got used up and I needed to make the journey back to the spout to get it filled up again. And when I’ve seen you at the spout, I’ve judged you and your buckets. “I only had to bring one bucket today, and look, it’s not even full. And that guy? He’s got two buckets and they’re almost overflowing! See? I’m not a bad person! Jesus really shouldn’t have had to die because of this little lie. This little malicious thought . . .”
Thankfully, the Lord didn’t let that image of grace end there. He gave me a new picture, and this time, there was no wall, there was no button and there were no buckets. There was a spout though, it was hanging out over my head, and it was gushing. All. Of. The. Time. There was no way to turn it on or off.
I believe that this is where the whole “all sin is equal” thing comes from. This is a hard concept for us to grasp, that a lie is as bad as fornication, that murder is equally as bad as gossiping. I think the bigger picture at hand is that every single sin requires a constant outpouring of grace. That even on our best days, we are no better than the murderer down the street because that person needs grace just as much as we do. So, yes, Jesus died because I lied, cheated, stole, killed, gossiped, etc. etc. etc. And His grace covers all of it. Always.
Being in need of grace and receiving it are two different things. Remember how heavy I said my bucket was once it was full? Grace is a hard thing to receive when you’re trying to measure how much you’re going to need. I think if we stopped and looked in the bottom of the bucket before we hit that big red button, we’d see that there’s already something in it that weighs it down even more. Our sin; whatever it is we are trying to be redeemed of. We’re not meant to carry that around with us, though. In fact, technically, we can’t. By way of the cross, we can now enter in to the Holy of Holies, and stand in the Father’s presence, receive His Holy Spirit, and become adopted into His kingdom. But that bucket doesn’t get to come into the Holy of Holies with us. That nasty thing gets left at the cross, and guess what? When we pass by the cross on our way out, that bucket is gone. If you look for it, you won’t find it. If you ask Jesus what happened to it, He’ll look at you funny and say, “What bucket?”
He is risen! Now? Now we get to see grace as a way of life rather than a destination. Now we get to walk under His outpouring of grace All. Of. The. Time. That’s why He gave His life. Just as it’s true that we are loved by the Father as much now as we will ever be, we are also on the receiving end of as much grace now as we will ever be. It isn’t measured, it isn’t allotted, it is given freely, constantly.It is past, present and future, omnipresent because it is part of the nature of God to be forgiving. Even in those moments when you feel like you are rocking your relationship with the Father, and seeing all kinds of fruit from how awesomely spiritual you are, you are in desperate need of grace — the same grace that your neighbor is in need of while navigating a painful, bitter divorce, or worse. We all need grace, All. Of. The. Time.
Now someone please go buy all the Mini Eggs that are on clearance before I get to the store!