I’ve been watching my garden grow. Especially the decorative gourds that I’m training to grow along the fence so they don’t overtake the yard. The yellow variety needs my help directing it in and out of the wire but the green striped variety is an entirely different creature. It sends out tendrils that grasp onto the wire tightly, eventually creating a woven fabric of leaves, stems, flowers, and fruit that seems to sail away when the wind blows.
Those tendrils are mesmerizing. They reach out like long fingers, straight and thin, but as soon as they touch something they begin to curl around it possessively. Somehow the tendril itself curls into a corkscrew, tighter and tighter, pulling the plant closer to the wire (or nearby plant) that it first latched on to. As I watch these tendrils turn into artistic patterns of tapestry, a thought rises to my consciousness:
“Stand firm in grace.”
This is a recurring theme from the pens of mature leaders who are encouraging young men and women how to live. They don’t want the young people to stand firm in rules, financial strategy, or notoriety. They are urging future leaders to stand firm in grace. I especially like the way Paul tells Timothy: “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:1
What is grace? There’s an image in John 3:8 of wind that “blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Grace is unpredictable. To follow its lead, you must listen carefully and be flexible. A friend of mine described it this way: “Have your feet planted firmly in mid-air.” Sounds like life on the cutting edge, full of adventure and mystery.
Another aspect of grace is described in Titus 2:11-12. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives.” At first glance, this doesn’t sound like adventure and mystery; it conjures up feelings of tight-lipped teachers and those you-know-better-than-that stares from parents. Let me share an enticing example of this aspect of grace in action.
In the book Age of Opportunity, Paul Tripp tells a story about an encounter with his son. Someone had observed his son doing something that seemed out of line with the family’s values and reported it to Paul. He had a choice. Either he could roar into his son’s room, wagging his finger and asking, “How could you embarrass me like that? How dare you? You’re grounded!” or he could choose a more gracious approach. This is the self-controlled response that Paul chose: “Do you realize how the grace of God has been at work in your life lately? God really cares about you! Our friend told me about ______________ and now you have the opportunity to make a better choice next time. Isn’t God’s grace powerful stuff?” (Not an exact quote, but it gets the idea across.)
I’d like to live firmly grounded in grace. I’d like my tendrils to curl around the wind that is blowing where it pleases. I want my feet to be firmly planted in mid-air. To accomplish that, I put myself in places where grace is practiced. I look for people of gracious spirit and spend time with them. I read their books. I listen to their stories, read their poems, savor their music. I am wrapping myself tightly around grace; I will live in confidence that whichever way the wind blows, I will stand firm and be able to go with the wind.