Acting gracefully

Prom night, 1983.  I was all ready, with my long, flowing periwinkle dress, matching sandals and beach-blonde hair fixed just so.  My date arrived right on time, and Mother called up to alert me.  I could hear them chatting in the living room, so I checked myself once more in front of the mirror, took a deep breath, and glided to the top of the stairway for my grand entrance.  I took two graceful steps in anonymity before my 4-inch heel caught on the carpet of the third, and I instantly lost everything.  I  did two complete somersaults down the open stairs, guided only by the wrought-iron rails on the sides.  I wasn’t even sure I wanted to extricate myself from the tangled mass of legs, gossamer, and humiliation I found myself under at the bottom.  Disappearing into the floor would’ve been preferable.  But the voices were still speaking:  “So, your husband built all this himself?”   “Oh, yes.  Well, all of us….”  I realized they were still looking out the window at our new patio and had never noticed my fall.  As though anybody could’ve missed what sounded like a small herd of hippos plummeting down the staircase!  But I was 18, and it’s easy to convince yourself of unreality at that age.  I jumped up, straightened my dress and ran a hand through my hair.  “Uh….  I’m ready to go!”

Only then did they turn around.  They both sighed in unison something like, “Oh, look how lovely she is!”  My date smiled,  took leave of my parents, and guided me down the walk.  Although my mother reassured me later that it wasn’t as bad as I made it sound, she’s a crummy liar.  He never let me off his arm all night.  I’m sure he was convinced I’d do it again in front of a crowd.  But he never said a word about it.

That was the epitome of grace, right there.   How many of us can overlook a fault, a misstep, or even a glaring error – and never look back?

I had thought I had that moment of infamy successfully buried in the basement of my memory.  I wanted all eyes focused on me for my grand moment, and it turned out a lot grander than planned.  I know if I’d been a sibling instead of myself, I never would have let me live that down.

So when the memory surfaced out of nowhere at 3 am, it was all I could do to contain my giggles.  I’m not sure my sleeping family would have found it nearly as funny at that hour.  But when you’re doing nothing else – might as well giggle!

Why did this memory come up after so many years?  I needed to see what grace was, and that it wasn’t being lovely or knowing which fork is correct.  It is giving to others what I’ve been given.

Grace is that ease and character that is devoid of ineptitude; it is also a reprieve from debt.  It is noticing others, but not taking note of their missteps, and being myself naturally while doing so.   One of the meanings in my dictionary says “a virtue granted by God.”  It would have to be.

Grace is an amazing gift.   Since Jesus’ death paid for our sins, we are now without condemnation.  We are effectively cleaned up, good as new.  It is grace that allows us to walk into His presence on Judgment Day as though nothing ever happened.   The shame of facing the Almighty God from behind my glaring selfishness would be a lot worse than the humiliation of looking my date in the eye from behind my exposed backside.   I can’t thank Him enough to be released from that.

But how can I thank someone for purposely overlooking my shame?  I know in social situations, I call attention to it if I say anything, but I’d still like to show my appreciation.  Moreover, how do I thank someone who’s been gone from this Earth for 2,000 years?

“Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”   Pay it forward.  Take my eyes off myself and notice others in their moment of glory.  Overlook their failings.  Care more about others than myself.

The very fact that I am sitting here is a gift.  I am indebted for every breath I take that would be better used by another more worthy.  But God wants me to utilize what He’s invested in my creation and development.   I just wish, in order to be made into the perfect crown jewel, I didn’t have to be thrown into the rock tumbler.  But that is the most efficient way to smooth off rough edges.  Tumbling down the stairs certainly took some of the brash off my attitude that night.  Selfishness and grace cannot coexist, and one must go.  Other forces of adversity have been used over the years, all with the same result: increased humility and respect of others.

So now I’m refined and graceful and we must put the rubber onto the road.  It’s not easy to overlook another’s foibles, especially if they affect me.  If I’ve actually been hurt, self-preservation kicks in before I know it.   But I am now called by Christ’s name.  Will I stand on my vow, come hell or high water, and show His grace, his face to those around me?  He calls me to a higher standard than I ever dreamed was possible.  I have to give up my desire to laugh and retell this moment with embellishments.  I see Noah’s sons, walking into the tent backwards with a blanket between them to cover their exposed, inebriated father, never mentioning the incident again.  This is God’s way.  And only when I follow His lead does His grace truly flow through me.  Now to show my acceptance of the gift.

How can I bless someone today?  And who will it be?

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