Every afternoon, on my way to pick my kids from school, I pass by a somewhat dismal, two-storey building with a bright blue roof. It has the word GRACE boldly painted across the entrance.
Now, let’s play a little game: If you had to guess, what would you say was inside the building?
Let me give you a hint: I happen to live in my city’s unofficial “Bible Belt”. Spend about five minutes in my hood and you’ll see a minimum of three matchbox-size churches, couple of worship centers where literally two or three can gather together in His name, a Miracle hair salon (because God knows we all need divine intervention in that department), a Jehovah tire repair center and an Emmanuel Pawn Broker whose tagline is “Because it’s Better to Store Your Treasure in Heaven”.
Okay, yeah, some of those descriptions are semi-fictional, but I wouldn’t be exaggerating when I say I live in church central.
Given that piece of information, you’d guess GRACE is probably a church or a worship center.
Well, not so much.
GRACE is actually a garbage collection center. I kid you not. You really cannot make this stuff up. It’s an acronym for Grass Root Action on Community Empowerment – which is official speak for “glorified dumpster for recyclable garbage.”
Through the open doors of GRACE, piles of old newspaper and dozens of glass bottles fight for space with mismatched shoes, heaps of plastic bags, broken chairs and goodness knows what else. Let’s just say it’s not somewhere you or I would want to hang and chat over a cup of coffee.
But, the more I think about it, GRACE is not an entirely incongruous name for a junkyard. Here's why:
Grace is the Foundation
If it weren’t for the GRACE recycling centre, all our city’s junk would be clogging landfills. But GRACE offers a way out.
That’s similar to our faith as well. We bring our mounds of messes, hang-ups and our filthy rags to lay down under the awning of God’s grace. In fact, He invites us to bring our brokenness to His throne of grace. There’s no entry fee of good works or a clean track record. There’s no condemnation. And there’s no other way out.
Grace Changes Us
Like the GRACE recycling hub, God's grace is a transforming grace. But of much, much grander proportions. He transforms us from the inside out. It’s a messed-up to marvelous grace. It’s a guilt-ridden to gloriously-free grace. God takes hurt and brings healing. He takes the broken and makes them beautiful.
To quote Max Lucado, “God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way.”
Grace is a Daily Thing
I live in a big city where the junk that’s generated is beyond ginormous. Huge piles of trash come through the gates of GRACE every single day. That’s how it should work for us too. We need to come before His throne of Grace daily.
It’s way more productive than trying to shove our junk under the carpet, or trying to hide it behind closed doors. Sooner or later, there’s going to be a stench. Or it’s all going to come tumbling out like Tupperware from an overstuffed kitchen cabinet. Might as well come clean and take it to the One who already knows - and always loves.
Grace Ignored is Life Under Pressure
I pass by the GRACE recycling every day. The dailyness of it makes me ignore it. It’s nothing special. It’s just part of the not-so-pleasant scenery between kid drop offs and grocery store runs.
Sadly enough, that is similar to how we sometimes view the grace we have in Jesus, doesn’t it? When we first encounter it, it’s an “amazing grace… that saved a wretch like me.” But then we grow accustomed to it. It becomes routine. It becomes ignorable.
When we ignore God’s scandalous, stunning grace, we become performance driven. We want to prove ourselves worthy, we strive and we stress, we believe we can earn our way to eternity.
But God reminds us that it is “by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
The very foundation of our faith is grace. Grace that is willing to take all the junk, all the messes, all the shame and guilt and every single sin. Grace covers it all.