Friday, August 2, 2013

Full of Grace and Truth

I went to visit Dad a couple of days ago for a few minutes. We were talking about hard subjects, difficult topics. Toward the end of the conversation, just before we prayed together, he looked up at me and said something like this:

"I've been struck by the verse, 'And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth [Gospel of John chapter 1, verse 14].'

"Have you ever noticed how grace comes before truth?" he went on. "Truth is of course indispensable; but Grace is listed first ..."

I ventured my thought: "Perhaps Grace comes first because it's the gentle support, the cushioning, that enables Truth to be brought out and looked at directly in the eye, to be faced head on?" 

Sometimes truth is so harsh, so painful, that without the accompanying grace we would be left raw and bleeding by the side of the road.

Dad and I talked about three words that come to mind when one thinks about Grace. The first is Justice - Justice sentences us to the penalty we deserve. The second is Mercy - Mercy is about not receiving the penalty we deserve. And then there's Grace. Grace grants us the goodness that we do not deserve.

A few days ago I went with a friend to visit a loved one who is unwell. I wandered into the little chapel and sat on one of two old-fashioned wooden pews pressed apologetically against the back walls - the new chairs were stacked, tower-like, at the front of the room.

My face was positioned downward, looking at the floor. The weight of the day was lodged between my shoulders and it seemed like I couldn't hold my head up any longer. I had no words, no clarity of thought, in those moments of heaviness and loss.

The sun must have emerged from the cloudy gloom outside because suddenly the rays filtering into the room were gorgeous, lighting up the wooden maze inlaid into the floor and making it decipherable. I looked up, slightly startled by the amber warmth. For the first time I noticed the simple lectern and the clean lines of the table, and the sweetly basic piano -the sum of the rest of the furniture - also bathed in the same forgiving aura. 

I noticed the knot between my shoulders slowly shrinking. My fingers, which I had wrapped around each other, started to unwind. I relaxed into the hard welcome of my well worn pew perch and I started to pray, for my friends, for my family, for myself, for grace. As I was finishing, I happened to glance upward, glimpsing for the first time the overhead lampshades. A wooden cross was on each of the panels. And I fancied that the natural, outside light had caused me to lift up my head; it had turned me to the cross, the source of grace. 

Between the front two electric lights was a narrow panel through which natural light streamed:

And I thought of the words of the old, old song written by Julia H Johnston:

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide;
What can we do to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow you may be today.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?

Full of truth, but swaddled in grace.

I traced the maze on the floor from the outside to the very centre, which was also the centre of the tiny chapel. "Welcome home," it seemed to whisper.


  1. Thank you so much for this reminder of who we are in Christ........truly grace is our reason for believing in Him as our provider and friend.

  2. Thank you for these tender, tough words. May the grace of God, the love of Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest and abide with us all, now and forever, through the maze.

  3. Beautiful writings ... simply beautiful ... with an awareness that Jesus truly scripted them ...

  4. Thanks Karyn; I very much needed this centering on grace today.

  5. You are quite a writer Karyn. Please compile a devotional (if you haven't already). Am definitely not kidding and will keep asking you about it!


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