“Grace!”, my male youth group leaders would jokingly shout out after a rough broom hockey game, “live up to your name!”.
Grace was the girl in my youth group who would throw her hair back in a ponytail and muscle her way into the crowd of boys, ready to challenge anyone who didn’t think she was strong enough. Grace was the one who never quit, never backed down, always had the witty, clever quip to say, usually at a time when the rest of the group was quiet.
Grace was strong, interruptive, fearless and quarrelsome. She swam upstream, questioned common thought, and couldn’t be contained by church youth group norms.
When I would hear “Grace, live up to your name,” I would associate grace with docile, gentle, sweet and common. Grace, to me, meant careful, easy-going, predictable, and comfortable.
But in real life, grace is not some hallmark card of warm fuzzies to wrap in like a snuggie. Grace is fierce, wild and unpredictable. Grace is strong and ferocious, always doing the wrong things and forcing into places undeserved.
Grace comes at the bottom of the vodka bottle when your sponsor non-judgmentally wraps her warm hand around yours and walks you into the meeting ready to help start sober over. Again. Day by day. Hour by hour. Minute by minute.
Grace comes when the blood hasn’t even yet dried from cutting, when self-hatred from abuse has almost destroyed your personhood and you find your friend hasn’t given up on you.
Grace comes when financial burdens through job loss, medical bills, a mortgage lay dauntingly on tired shoulders, your friend says she has work for you today. For today.
There’s something very true about us humans living right now: We are all desperately fragile.
There’s, also, something very true about us humans living right now: We are all desperately strong.
Both are true realities we face everyday. We are fragile and strong because in our fragility we are strong. In our broken areas we become the understanding grace to help heal those who are beginning to break. When you went through your divorce, grace unpredictably muscled into your life through your friend who felt, first-hand, the pain divorce had caused. When you lost your baby weeks before pushing, grace obnoxiously elbowed a path into your agony through your friend who felt, first-hand, the torment of a hollow womb and empty crib.
Grace unpredictably shows us just how fragile and strong life truly is, because grace shows up.
When God slipped into skin to walk this fragile earth as Jesus Christ, God slipped into fragility with us, experiencing human love, heartbreak, anger, fear, frustration, friendship, loneliness, disappointment, suffering, pain, sadness, abandonment, joy. Grace, through Christ, comes at us like a fierce force of love whether we deserve it or not. Grace says we’re not alone. Grace covers everything through Jesus Christ. Grace says there’s nothing we can do or not do to change God’s mind about humanity. God just loves you.
Grace shows up in fragile and strong ways and says, “It is finished”.
I know grace lives up to its name.
Bethany Cseh is co-pastor of Catalyst Church in Arcata.