Monday, May 28, 2012

When Grace Wears Skin

I'm sitting on my couch staring out the window, watching dusk chase the day beyond the verdant hills.  The birds are trilling their evening song, and the little house across the yard sits empty and silent.

Its dark windows peer at me like blank eyes, making me sigh deep sighs.  Life is full of so much emptying.  The emptying of hearts, of pocketbooks, of coffee cups, of houses that once swelled with life.

My neighbors, Luke and Laura, have just removed the last of their furniture from the little house, and soon they will move.  They will drive hundreds of miles north to another empty house that they will fill.

Laura, she's full with child, and Luke, he's starting a new job at a hospital full of needy people, and so even as I watch them empty the house across the way my soul swells full for them and the hope on their horizon.

But tonight as I sit here alone the silence rings loud with poignant memories that make my heart a little achy.

Even so, I think this must be what grace sounds like.

Because Luke and Laura have taught me what grace looks like when it wears skin.

I remember the day Laura and I first spent time together.  We didn't sit and have a 'cuppa', as Australian Laura calls her tea, or hit the nearby beaches.  We drove south to my pre-marriage counselor, where I met my fiance to break off our engagement.

I'd known Laura less than a week, but she was one of two women I knew in the area I'd just moved to.  So I asked her, my lip quivering, if she'd accompany me and then drive me home if I didn't have the strength.

That hour and a half we spent in the car together Laura spoke true things about God and his mercy.  She told me I was strong and brave and right to do this, and that I wasn't alone.  She and Luke, and our landlady Joy, would be there for me. And as I stared out the rain-splattered window into the night I felt hope stirring in my chest, a splinter of light in an ever-blackening sky.

Laura is a woman of her word.  When I walked out to my car the next morning to go to work there were purple daisies on my windshield.  A reminder that I wasn't alone.

When illness incapacitated me in the following days and months, she walked over to my house daily.  She'd bring freshly squeezed orange juice, lunch, and groceries.  She'd make me tea, and make me laugh.

Some evenings she and Luke would bring dinner over and we'd sit on my patio and enjoy a meal together.  We'd chat and laugh deep belly laughs, and it was in those moments that I almost forgot I'd been stripped of my health and was grieving my broken engagement.

During this season of darkness Luke and Laura's friendship was a salve to my soul wounds.  It was a lifeline for my weakened body.  They became my family away from home.  Because of their friendship my grief became mingled with gratitude.

There were several months when my sickness made it hard for me to carry on conversations.  During that time I had to retreat into my apartment, desperate to rest myself back to health.  I worried that my absence would change my friendship with Luke and Laura, but it didn't.  They loved me the same, they just showed it in different ways.

Their friendship changed me because it assured me that grace gives freely,
expecting nothing in return.

Luke and Laura helped me to better understand Jesus, Grace wrapped in skin.

When grace wears skin it doesn't just give, it also invites.  It dignifies people by showing them they're significant and have something to offer, even when they're weak and broken.  Luke and Laura taught me this.  They poured into my life, and invited me into theirs.  When they suffered and grieved they invited me into the dark and vulnerable places.  When they delighted in God's gifts they invited me to celebrate with them.

And so that is what I want to do today.  I want to celebrate this new season of adventure and promise that's unfolding for them. I want to look back on the good work God has done in and through them, and look forward to the new friends they'll make—friends whose souls might also need reminding of what grace looks like when it wears skin.

© by scj


  1. This made my heart smile. I love you, too!

  2. What a beautiful story. I love how you point out that life is full of emptying. I never thought of that, and in a way it seems sad, but emptiness leaves room for new things. So maybe the emptiness is hope-filled?

  3. Hi Jenny!

    I love this idea that emptiness is hope-filled. Because the grave is empty we can rest assured that emptying will also lead to filling.

    What beautiful paradox.

    Thank you for sharing,