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Finding Faith in Faith

This blog is dedicated to exploring the intersections of faith and politics, the intricacies of religious culture and the struggle to balance devotion to a higher being and to oneีs culture.

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Name: jrichard

Monday, August 11, 2008

Grace is shown, not defined

Grace.

This is a word that I casually use to describe what I think churches need to consider when approaching their communities.

I am a strong advocate of social justice, probably due to the fact that my own movement, the Church of Christ, has been silent for so long on so many social injustices (the most glaring to me is race relations). And when you boil it down, social justice is rooted in grace.

Certainly there are causes and cases in which people DESERVE more than society provides, and those battles are worth fighting. But I never cease to feel that we should never let some of those struggles get that far: we should be providing for people whether or not they "deserve" having their needs met.

But this weekend, we witnessed the kind of grace for which our movement and our church has shown unswerving ability.

Because our move occurred in such disarray (LONG STORY for another blog), my wife and I spent nearly a week without sleeping. The two-day marathon to pack up our entire house yielded to the three-day push to pack our vehicles and clean the house we were leaving.

The night before we were to pack up and depart, we had dinner with some of our dearest friends. Exhausted from the day's efforts and delirious from the lack of sleep, we met with Robert and Alys Foster and commemorated our time together. We laughed a little, cried a little and generally appreciated each other's company for what would probably be the last time for quite a while.

When we departed, it was late and emotional. And that's when the drama really began.

I had noticed as we had arrived that the check engine light had turned on. This wasn't as alarming as it could have been, for the light has a history of alighting with no significant problems. This time proved different.

Less than one mile from the Foster's apartment, the temperature gauge began to climb. Soon, we smelled smoke and the vehicle trembled with a rumbling vibration.

We quickly pulled to the side of the road. We were low on gas, so I put a few gallons in (thinking we might have some bad gasoline), and started again. The vehicle resumed its troubling behavior.

We quickly called the Fosters and limped one mile to a Pep Boys in the nearby area.

The Fosters soon arrived and took us home.

We thanked them and set out to make plans for the hitch in our moving schedule. The following day was Sunday, and the day we were supposed to depart on our move to Colorado. Our first priority was to see what could be done about the Jeep and the second was to figure out the impact not having the Jeep available for loading would have on our departure schedule.

We travelled to Pep Boys minutes after they opened. They agreed to look at the Jeep and we decided to stay in the area. The lead technician called roughly an hour later to explain that the shop would not be able to look at the vehicle today, for the only technician capable of running the diagnostic equipment needed to troubleshoot the problem had called in sick.

After grunting several choice words under my breath, I travelled back to Pep Boys and managed to get the Jeep across the street to the local Firestone. Which turned out to be a God-send (perhaps literally).

Not only did the shop quickly diagnose the problem (a burned out computer chip had led to the destruction of one of the Jeeps valve assemblies), but they could repair the Jeep by 2 p.m. the same day (which meant a two-hour turnaround on a Sunday).

The cost was nearly a thousand dollars, and I authorized the work, not knowing what else to do (we had budgeted tightly because Mayflower had increased the price of our move after they truck had departed, and we were still anticipating about $1,000 in gas costs moving both of our loaded vehicles to Colorado).

My mother arrived to help us organize the remaining property and haul the cast-offs to Goodwill. It was after the first such runs that I received a startling call from Robert.

We had, because of the vehicle complications, decided not to attend church that morning. We just couldn't figure out how to make that work with all the other time pressures upon us.

Robert had apparently spoken with the church leadership and they had authorized him to offer to pay for the vehicle repairs.

I was dumbstruck. On a day that we had skipped services, on the day that we were planning to leave them, the members of our church home were offering to help us leave.

I cried for quite some time as the waves of meaning washed over me.

Robert offered to put our repairs on his credit card, and the church has offered to reimburse him the following week.

So that's what we did. And it turned out to have saved us, for we maxed out all of our credit cards in the first two weeks of our arrival because of unanticipated expense (such as our house not being available, pushing us into a hotel room, additional service fees and deposits for utilities, etc. Longer version of the story posted in my other blog).

I am still in awe of the turn of events: that the eve before our departure, our vehicle broke down, that we were in such despair, that we were rescued by those who had been lamenting our departure ... and somehow the word grace fits, but seems inadequate.

Grace is receiving blessings and care without deserving or earning the contribution. But to put it this simply belies the powerful emotions that come with being saved from forces beyond one's control by people who are not legally responsible to make the effort. Grace is how we show that our morality transcends the finite concepts of justice.

Grace truly is a wonder to behold.

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