“Grace is the face love wears when it meets imperfection”
– Joseph R. Cooke
I’d like to think I’m the kind of Christian that meets everyone with a loving face of grace.
Don’t we all?
I met a good number of people in April. I traveled to Prague and spent a week meeting church planters and Czech believers. I met with teens in Youth Alpha for a day retreat.
And in the midst of being a messy, imperfect person, meeting with messy, imperfect people, my response was less about grace. Instead, it was trying to fix the imperfections I see in myself, and trying to fix the imperfections of others.
Because I’ve been wanting my nice missionary checklist filled for longer than I care to admit.
Love as God’s Employee
Last month, I did everything a missionary is “supposed” to do.
I gave out Bibles, prayed with others in a different language, and saw people accept Christ. And yet, my “filled” checklist really just left me feeling empty.
Checklists are nice enough if you want to be God’s employee, but I want to be His child.
Later, in the midst of the “successes” I’d been longing for, I also found myself in the midst of a conflict. A tearful, intense conflict that took several hours to sort through. Conflicts can be hard and hurtful, but if done well, they can also be helpful in the end.
By the end of this one, there was honesty and unity. I felt more freedom than my completed lists could’ve ever provided. I guess I didn’t realize how long and costly it’s been to keep trying to “fix” my imperfections.
With this new freedom, I finished a book a friend recently sent me. The first line of a chapter immediately stuck out to me: “What if it was less important that anything ever gets fixed than that nothing has to be hidden?” (The Cure, by Lynch, McNicol & Thrall)
I saw an example of this openness and grace on the week-long prayer trip to Prague.
Love as a God’s Child
Two teams work with Serge in Czech and have planted two churches in the city. One of these is a Czech-American church, and we worshiped in a service mixed with different languages, customs, and nationalities.
Towards the very end of our time, we met with a woman leading outreach to the refugees in Czech. We cried with her as she shared her story of coming to know Christ.
And she told us an equally incredible and heartbreaking story of how God called her to respond to the refugee crisis in Europe.
She shared stories and scars about the hardships she endures in this ministry. At the beginning, she had a whole community behind her to help with donations, outreach, and administration. Now, she is down to two volunteers. It is hard work.
She also shared stories and joy of how God is working in Czech and her ministry.
We met a Christian family recently reunited with their father/grandfather after several years of crisis and uncertainty. They prepared a meal for us and invited us to taste what home is for them.
As I saw, not only in this family, but in Youth Alpha and my own heart, God’s heart calls fathers and children home.
When I’m God’s employee, I need to fix myself and others, and get lots of things done.
But when I remember that I’m His child, I can be honest about my imperfections.
I can cry with and pray with others, and trust that God is faithful, even when my checklists go unfilled. And I love the freedom that being a child brings: no more hiding.
After all, love doesn’t exist to fix each other, it exists to free each other.