Today is day 20 of these 31 days of grace. I was planning to do a post on grace in marriage today, but first, I thought it might be important to point out another very important thing about grace. We’ve talked about what it looks like in the everyday ordinary, what it feels like to receive it, where it comes from, and what it means. But we haven’t talked a lot about what it’s not.

grace is not . . .

  • subjecting yourself to the same rejection by the same people over and over no matter what.
  • putting yourself or your family members in emotional danger because of someone who is unsafe.
  • something you can manufacture by the grit of your own strength.
  • hands-folded polite, nodding in the midst of injustice.
  • trying hard to be nice.

Yesterday, I told you a story of when a family doctor and acquaintance forgot my name in a social situation. It stung, but she didn’t do anything wrong. She was in a weak spot, probably even aware of the fact that she ought to know who I was but simply couldn’t find me in her brain files. I’ve been there, too.

There are so many moments just like that with friends and family members where I believe God continues to be the strength I need to enable me to pour heaping handfuls of grace upon their heads–moments of weakness, of mis-judgement, of mistake, or even intentional hurt. He offers me the opportunity to show grace, but it doesn’t mean I always take advantage of that opportunity. But these are examples of the type of situation we have mostly been talking about this month.

But there are other times when the grace-showing feels tricky. There may be a person or people in your life to whom you have shown grace and from whom grace has not been returned. Over and over again. Or even worse, you have been hurt by them in big ways, causing deep wounds and the need for soul healing. Showing grace towards them does not necessarily mean you are to remain quiet and continue to pursue them and allow the rejection to go on and on. Instead, showing grace means releasing them of the responsibility to meet your needs – perhaps your need to be loved, to be understood, to be right, to be safe – it may mean you are to continue to pursue that person. But it may not.

It is not your responsibility to be sure they receive the grace you extend. That is not your job. Releasing them of your expectations can be done from a distance, if need be. And often, in those situations, that is the only way it can be done. Sometimes, it is necessary to extend grace towards someone who is absent in your life, who has hardened themselves toward you, or who isn’t even alive anymore, evidence that the grace-showing isn’t always for them. Sometimes, it’s for us.

Only God can judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. If he leads you to continue to pursue, then trust him with your heart. If he leads you do keep your distance, then grace gives you permission to do so. Either way, he is the keeper of your reputation. He is the source of your acceptance. Only he knows which way is appropriate for every situation.

And so grace means trusting him by the minute, knowing you can’t but he can. And also? That he will.