Monday over Coffee: Grace. Love. And More Grace.

Need Some Words of Encouragement?

Grace. Love. And More Grace.

So, I’m trying to read Moby Dick. Let me just say: Not going well. I’m stalled on the Pequod with Ishmael, Starbuck, and Captain Ahab somewhere in the South Pacific around page 243. I made it through Melville’s all but exhaustive description of the Nantucket whaling industry, but bogged down in a chapter called, The Whiteness of the Whale. The book is dull and tedious, but also incredibly engrossing, playful, brilliant, and funny, then dull again. It’s a tremendous work, of course. It’s just that it is really, really dense.

Maybe I was being overly ambitious, but I really want to be the type of person who’s read Moby Dick. And War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, and Middlemarch (which I’m also taking a crack at albeit on Audible — also not going well). But it’s not just this. It’s not just a question of books where there is a gap between who I am and who I want to be. No. My underachieving extends well beyond literature.

I’m also not the parent I want to be. Nor the husband I want to be. Nor the minister I want to be. I’ve got issues with openness. I’m not as generous, kind, patient, or as faithful to God as I ought to be. I’m prone to grumbling and to criticizing. You see, I have this terrific picture of who I want to be. This person I desire to see myself as being, but let’s face it, it’s not actually me. It’s like having a song in your head you can’t quite sing. And now with a little added pressure of a pandemic, a quasi-quarantine, and an iffy future, sometimes I can’t even find the tune at all.

Scientists from Johns Hopkins have recently conducted research on what they’ve termed ‘naturally occurring God encounters and mystical experiences.’ They carefully screened 809 participants, then asked each of them a series of questions from something they call a Mystical Experience Questionnaire. When the participants were asked about the main attributes of the Being they encountered, they used the words, Benevolent/Compassionate (86%), Sacred (81%), Eternal (70%), and All-Knowing (66%). In this research, as well as anecdotally, an overwhelming majority of people who have such mystical encounters typically describe the moment as joyful, one of awe, and that, in God’s presence, what one experiences is the feeling of kindness, acceptance, and most of all, transcendent love.

Most of us probably won’t ever experience ‘a mystical God encounter' of this sort, but our faith teaches us we can encounter, come to know, and gain a deeper access into this transcendent kind of love in a more mundane, but just as sacred way — by not just knowing, but internalizing the teachings of Jesus.

In late May every year, I pick up a book called, If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? It’s a collection of the commencement addresses of author, Kurt Vonnegut. In it, Vonnegut, though famously an atheist, writes the one good idea humanity has come up with so far is the idea of mercy and grace which Jesus gave us in the Sermon on the Mount. The whole message conveyed in Christ’s teachings, then brought to life in his crucifixion and resurrection, is that God is just this: Grace. Love. And More Grace.

Maybe you too have some projects that haven’t panned out in this season. Maybe, as you’re feeling the stress we’re all facing, you feel disinclined to go easy on yourself. Maybe you’re beating yourself up for not being the person you think you ought to be or plausibly could be. Keep working on it. The book’s not finished yet. But here’s how it ends: Grace. Love. And More Grace.

God —

When my grasp exceeds my reach, help me remember that Your eyes are filled with Grace for me.

Grace. Love. And More Grace.

Build up my soul with a spiritual confidence not sourced in me, but sourced in You and Your bright and inexhaustible love.

Grace. Love. And More Grace.

Help me to embody the teachings of Christ. And to never grow weary of going easy on all those I encounter, becoming a friend, being a neighbor, and a servant to the least.

Grace. Love. And More Grace.


—Greg Funderburk

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