Ariel (not her real name) came to girl's Bible study last night. She hasn't come for about 8 months. I was surprised to see her standing at my gate about 15 minutes early. She had obviously showered and dressed in "out for the evening clothes". She was smiling.
I wish that I had just gushed with grace and love. It's the obvious response. Kristel did. She ran out and invited her in. I followed. Sigh.
Our history is a rough road. She has been part of our deaf community, family, gatherings, events, since the beginning, since our very first worship together. During that 7 years I felt like I had tried to help her, be a safe place for her, helped her reunite with her mother who had cut her off, baby shower, visited her, showed her love, forgave her...etc. but she kept rejecting me, said mean things, never smiled to me, said mean lies to other people about me. I thought, "Hey, look, I can't go any farther across this bridge without you making some kind of effort, " though I never said that to her or anyone else. She was causing so much chaos, too. Every time (yes EVERY time) she came to church she had a fight with the man she claims is the father of her first baby but is obviously not. Sometimes she would stand up and shout and then dramatically announce "I'm ignoring you"… and maybe storm off in tears about 15 minutes after church started. You would think you were watching a Mexican soap opera. So when she stopped coming to church and my house and kind of stayed away for 8 months, my first thought was relief. "Phew, less drama."
There are so many different kinds of psycho-babble theories about how to relate to people who are having trouble finding their way and very stubborn and rebellious in the effort. You know, "tough love", or let them learn their lesson, or just love them anyway. As a teacher who juggles these strategies everyday...I try to figure out when do I discipline, when do I hug it out, when do I see this as needing a behavior management reward system, when do I ignore it. Every behavior, every child, every situation is different and any one of those responses is "right" from time to time in an educational setting. With Church family, it's different.
When Chuck Snyder was here, he was talking about grace vs. law. He said, “People have it all wrong. The argument should not be grace vs. law. You can never have too much grace. It should be rephrased: law vs. lawlessness.”
Hmmmm. “You never ever can have too much grace”.
The phrase has been rolling around in my head ever since. I think he is right about that. How does that apply to school? I don’t know… but with church people…with Ariel….it means I should run to her like the Father in the Prodigal son story. I didn’t. I don’t trust her. But so what? There wasn’t anything trustworthy about the son who returned home, yet the Father ran to meet him.
Grace, you can never have too much.
So last night when she came to Bible study, Kristel and Angelica were immediately "thrilled to see her after a long absence" and showered her with sentences like: "It's so good to have you here." That’s grace. Father, show me how to extend the grace to Ariel that you have already rained on her.