Watching my daughter during her ballet lessons brings me so much joy. She is so beautiful and graceful in those flowing movements. The only word that comes to mind as I see her, and those who are so much further along in their skill set, is grace. This word is heard so often in the church that I’m sure it’s lost some meaning, or at least some understanding.
Many of us have heard that the difference between mercy and grace is that mercy is not getting what we deserve and grace is getting something we never deserved. There is no effort on our part with grace. Grace is a gift that is given…and we didn’t earn it, or work for it.
Those ballerinas, though, they work so hard to achieve their graceful movements. I wonder why the word grace describes them so perfectly? Maybe word origins aren’t your thing, but I sure enjoy thinking about why we use the words we use…and so as I considered these meanings for grace, it hit me…
The ballerinas are so skilled that it appears as though their movements are simply natural and easy. Have you ever thought to yourself as you watch their beauty, “I could totally do that”? I know I have. And then I try. Ha! It’s not as easy as it seems. My attempts are clunky and disjointed. But, the graceful ballerinas make it appear as if it is effortless.
And I think that’s why we call them graceful. There is no work (of our own) involved in grace. Even though we know the hard work behind the ballerina’s movements, all we see in the final performance is gracefulness; natural, effortless movements. The hard work is replaced by joyful natural beauty.
OUR hard work must also disappear and be replaced by Jesus’ perfect grace. It is Christ whose work is behind the peaceful grace we now enjoy. If there is any of our effort seen, this indicates a problem. Just as we wouldn’t expect to see the principal ballerina grunting loudly and allowing her effort to be shown during the performance, if our effort in this work of grace is seen, then this indicates we don’t know grace. We don’t understand this is Jesus’ work, not ours.
Understanding Christ’s finished work on our behalf results in peace, not turmoil, about our eternal home. Knowing Christ has reconciled us to our Heavenly Father gives us joy, not resentment. Resting in Jesus’ power, which abides in us through His Holy Spirit, strengthens us, not causes us to feel overwhelmed or powerless.
While we are part of this faith-journey (working out our salvation with fear and trembling), we must remember the Source of our faith and the One who works in us all the way through.
Any work on our part to be accepted by God or to earn a spot in Heaven will only reveal our own clunky disjointed efforts. It is Jesus who did all the hard–IMPOSSIBLE–work through His obedient life, His perfect sacrificial death, and His glorious resurrection over death.
Rest in His work. How grace-full we will then be!