During my morning prayers, I am also reading Reluctant Pilgrim. In the chapter I read this morning, Okoro writes about a man she was in love with, and unless her words betray her, I would say still deeply loves, or at the very least remembers fondly. She writes about his addiction in these words: “God’s light shines especially bright through the multiple and endless fragmented slices that exist in broken people. And the more rays of light, the more people are touched. But no one expects such light to come from a broken image. I learned to understand the radical beauty of God through Michael’s shards. I learned to acknowledge the beauty of God through my own brokenness” (77). When I read this beautiful description of brokenness, I realized why I have always loved that churches use stained glass to tell the biblical narrative.
Maybe the early stained glass artists were onto more than simply reappropriating the technique of mosaic with a new technology. The multicolored shards of glass work together to not only reflect and refract light, but they tell one cohesive story of beauty and grace. Each piece of art, carefully rendered with fragmented pieces of glass held together by that thin lead casing, each piece of art tells a beautiful story and needs each small fragment to tell it. I should look toward the stained glass to tell me about more than a biblical narrative; I should ask the stained glass to tell my own narrative, and to remind me that we all work together to form the body Christ, as weird and multicolored as it can be.
A few pages later Okoro writes: “I want to find a church that teaches me something about carrying each other’s burdens, about living into the gift of God’s grace so we are free to be the persons and community God calls us to be. […] Maybe I love the image of U2’s ‘Grace’ because it reminds me that God our mother eternally supports and nourishes us and, most importantly, does not punish us for being the needy creatures God created us to be. […] I don’t imagine that I extended grace to Michael. That would be presumptuous. Rather we both got caught up in the delicate but strong grip of God’s grace, that sense of divine love extending outside of God’s self and demanding humility from whoever falls into its arms” (80). I love this idea that we don’t extend grace to each other, and I never thought about how presumptuous it is to assume that we know anything about grace at all.
The idea that we just get caught up together in God’s grace is a profound one for me. I have always thought about giving grace to people, but not about mutually receiving grace, thought that’s exactly what happens. In fact, once I read this passage, I thought about Jesus saying that it’s better to give than receive. Why? Because when we give, we are simultaneously receiving. We can never only give grace, because what enables us to give grace is God’s giving of grace to us. We are inextricably caught up with others in giving and receiving grace.
In addition, maybe a lesson I am supposed to learn this Lent is one of humility. In the argument with my friend, humility was a learning point. In chapel yesterday, denial is a form of humility. Here, today, I learn that grace requires, no demands, our humility. How beautiful! If simply keep asking, God, what do you want with me? I have no doubt that I will eventually learn what it is God desires. I have no doubt that I am supposed to be a shard in the stained glass body of Christ.
Click the arrow below to listen to Nichole Nordeman’s cover of “Grace” by U2. You’ll also have to click the same arrow on the MySpace Music Player.