Today after I bought groceries and returned home, I was feeling fashionably cute and comfortable in my leopard-print blouse, short black skirt, black tights, and tall black boots and am thankful that temps here in the midwest aren’t still below zero after the “polar vortex” winter storm suddenly hit the U.S. Yes, I was finally outside, breathing fresh air!
As I walked on the short sidewalk leading to the steps of our back door, I noticed the icy sludge that crunched under my boots and immediately thought how different the weather conditions here are compared to the intense humid heat in Kenya, where Ray and I recently traveled to speak at a conference.
What a contrast. I began musing how life itself has so many contrasts. Shades of grey, even among people.
The saved and the unsaved. The rich and the poor. Men and women (Mars and Venus). The married and the single, widowed, or divorced.
Even in marriage, there is such stark contrast. An eternal covenant, a man and a woman uniting and becoming one flesh, such happy memories of their children and grandchildren. But also a lightning flash moment of intense pain and rage, when a single betrayal causing overwhelming hurt threatens to unravel and annihilate 10, 15, or 25 years of marriage.
Contrast like this is difficult for me to understand. Why isn’t it just one way or the other? It should be so much simpler, either a happy marriage or an unhappy marriage. A satisfying, beautiful life or a miserable, unhappy life. Black or white.
Why is there mixture? Why is there grey?
I am and have always been a very black-and-white thinker. Right is right; wrong is wrong. With me, there’s not a lot of “grey” area. My mind often runs AGV Italo-train fast, cleaving like a thick piece of raw steak thoughts, ideas, and people into neat, precise categories.
I love those short black boots; those beige dress shoes are ugly.
Mexican food is my favorite meal and I could eat it every day; beets are gross and disgusting.
Sandi Krakowski greatly inspires me as a woman entrepreneur; Lady Gaga really knows how to market and loves her fans, but she is offensive and ridiculous.
Black or white. No shades of grey.
He loves me; he loves me not.
She stays; she’s leaving.
Yet without the grey, without contrasts and mixture, there’s no room for grace – God’s grace and our own grace…grace for us to receive, grace for us to extend to others in return. God, I am so deficient in grace; help me.
God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. – Ephesians 2: 8-9, NLT
Grace means to get something that you don’t deserve ~ God’s unmerited favor. Mercy means that you do not get a punishment that you deserve ~ God’s compassion. (Resource: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/20-inspirational-bible-verses-about-grace/)
Everything isn’t always divided so cleanly, like a man chewing on a pork chop until only the bone remains, without even the fat.
Compartmentalizing all of life (even God’s word and people) into either black or white categories is much simpler and easier for us, but it’s devoid of grace, which is like color to an artist’s canvas.
Ansel Adams preferred and became famous for working with black and white photography, as he felt color was distracting and could divert a photographer’s attention away from achieving his full potential. But color makes a room, an outfit, a painting come alive.
Grace is the vibrant, beautiful color that brings us to life. And sometimes that color is grey.
Not everything is black and white. Not everything fits neatly into categories.
Life has contrasts. Life has joy. Life has pain. A woman in labor will cry, scream, and even rage at her husband or coach to go away and leave her the #?! alone. She will say she just can’t do this anymore; it hurts too much. But when that beautiful baby is born, she laughs, kisses her little one, and is filled with joy at the most beautiful baby in the whole world. (My babies certainly fit this title!)
Marriage and family are filled with precious, happy, good memories. There’s also pain that stabs unexpectedly and instantly, and this is the grey area, the contrasts, the place that gives room for grace to abound.
John testified about Him and cried out, This was He of Whom I said, He Who comes after me has priority over me, for He was before me. [He takes rank above me, for He existed before I did. He has advanced before me, because He is my Chief.]
For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received [all had a share and we were all supplied with] one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift. ~ John 1: 15-17, Amplified Bible
We ponder many perplexing things in life, like why there are so many starving people in the world, why women and children are being trafficked globally more than ever before as sexual slaves, why innocent people are tragically hurt or killed, why governments become corrupt, why sick people aren’t always healed. Ultimately the 2 questions we are asking in our hearts in these situations are:
- Why do bad things happen?
- Does God know or care about this and is He still good?
This week on Facebook, I was shocked and horrified to read the status of one of my “Facebook friends” – a woman I’ve never met in real life and don’t know very well, except by her face and her usually positive, encouraging posts. This is what her status said:
My daughter died.
Oh my God. Her daughter was having emergency surgery and that is all I know now. I don’t think anything could be more difficult or horrible to go through. Words are simply inadequate for a situation like this. The last time I checked, she had hundreds of comments (including my post), saying we were praying for her.
Why? Why did this happen? I don’t know. Shades of grey.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know one thing: God is love and God is good. He’s not like people. His ways are far above ours. (1 John 4:8; Isaiah 55: 8-9)
And He longs to shower us with His grace, comfort and strength, and wants us to become overflowing fountains of grace to others.
Grace supplied from God…in the heart-wrenching, painful shades of grey. Grace we give to ourselves and others…in the shades of grey.
Difficult, agonizing lessons so that we might be molded into His perfect image. The Man of Sorrows.
Jesus wept. (John 11:35)
The suffering servant,
So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. John 13: 4-5, NLT
The only Son of God, who was accused, tortured, bled and died for you and me so we could know and be with God forever. The ultimate Grace Giver.
Now Wonderful, Counselor, Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords and King of Kings.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV
What are your thoughts on this? Are you a very black and white thinker, too? This week think about those areas that are “shades of grey.” They are opportunities to study grace. Leave your comments below.