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Wide Open Spaces: Beyond Paint-by-Number Christianity by Jim Palmer



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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Jim Palmer

Sunday, November 21

Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.
—Matthew 20:16


Paul Tillich wrote about grace,

Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual,... It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us....

Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: “You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. 

Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!” If that happens to us, we experience grace.

The mystery of grace as I am experiencing it seems to be this: grace requires nothing of me and is a radical acceptance of myself by God based on nothing I do or don't do. Grace is not predicated by any condition within myself. 

Frankly, few people accept grace because it seems so scandalous and our religious sensibilities must put qualifiers on it. However, it's not grace if there are qualifiers. The scandal is this: there are no qualifiers. Grace is downright heretical if you really accept the implications for yourself and others.

The paradox of grace is that you would think this radical acceptance by God would essentially encourage us to wallow around in our brokenness and have no motivation for wholeness. What's so amazing to me is that this radical acceptance is the very thing that is pulling me toward wholeness. Perhaps when we put qualifiers on God's grace we perpetuate the illusion of our separation from God. 

That word "separation" seems so sterile, but there is so much plugged into it experientially—we project onto God feelings of disappointment and displeasure, and fear he will withhold his love and blessing. When we embrace grace with no qualifiers, we experience union with God where our wholeness progressively emerges.

Thank you, God, that I am secure before you by your grace.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.