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I had a few minutes before work one morning, so I brought a book with me to a small coffee shop near campus. I had graduated a few years before, but I hadn’t found a place I liked better yet. As it turned out, I didn’t read much of my book that morning as I lazy sipped my extra hot chai tea. A couple of students sat nearby, close enough for me to hear every word they spoke but not so close that they noticed my listening. They talked about this boring town and their big plans after graduation, their words dripping with a strange blend of passion and apathy unique to students with heads full of knowledge but not a lot of living to test it out on.

I smiled to myself as I considered how their conversation would have affected me in the past. There was a time when I would have arrogantly thought I knew exactly what they were looking for, back when I knew everything and had it all together. That was during my early days of college, my days of Christian-upity-ism and self-righteous rightness. I pretty much thought what everyone wanted was what I had, they just didn’t know it yet.

I think grace says something different, says I know you’re looking for something, but I don’t know what shape it will take for you. Do I believe God is the one who ultimately satisfies our needs for love, worth, acceptance, and security? Yes. Do I believe that looks the same for everyone? Absolutely not. Does that mean I think there are many ways to God? No, I think Jesus meant it when he said he was the way. But do I think Jesus shows himself to different people in different ways over and over again because he is a personal God and he knows what we need before we need it? Yes, I do believe that.

Not-grace is afraid of Jesus showing up uniquely for people, of Jesus showing up in ways that may not make sense to everyone. Not-grace shuts eyes tight to the differences, afraid that God isn’t big enough to handle the questioning. Grace allows for an unchangeable God do make change in people the way he does it, and not the way I think it ought to be done. Grace embraces the mystery of God, and accepts that I don’t know everything. And often times, he chooses to move and speak in ways that aren’t ‘Christian’ at all.

“I came to a peace with myself that working for God’s glory doesn’t necessarily mean singing worship songs. I think God puts things on your heart, and there’s times in your life – what you’re going through – and that’s what you sing about. Things that are worthy of praise. Things like love and such. I just wanna write some good music.”

– Jason Castro, Jesus believer and 3rd place finalist on American Idol Season 7, as quoted on I Am Second