I was sitting on our patio with my husband over a cup of coffee recently and we commented on all of the heavy rains we'd had. As a result of the deluge, leaves from a large fig tree in our back yard began to pile up on our screen and settle into the corners (no, not in the gutters we should have installed;). We said "mmmm...we should probably blow the leaves out before the screens give way under the pressure. We went back to our conversation and to our routine not paying any more attention to the screen.
Fast forward a few more days and we commented again "We really should blow those leaves out - the rain doesn't seem to be letting up." It actually looked as though the screens started to sag a bit and while we were momentarily concerned, we turned our attention back to our life and our routine and all the things that seem to take priority in our busy lives. While we knew it needed to be fixed, we just didn't believe it was that pressing.
Several weeks later we as we walked out to our patio there it was - the explosion of leaves, dirt and water on the ground told us all we needed to know. The screen, not able to bear up under the pressure, had crushed under the weight and was ripped apart from the fascia board.
We had held off too long. We had made the horrible mistake of waiting until the unthinkable happened and now we were paying the price. It would cost over $100 to fix the three panels that were damaged. About this time you may be tempted to say "well, hindsight is 20/20". It is true. Having the past in focus, you can see clearly. The problem with that is we were seeing pretty clearly before the damage. We saw the effects of the weight over several weeks take it's toll on the screen. We were not oblivious to the problem. So to say we were not somehow seeing clearly before it happened and now we see perfectly based on what actually happened is a bit silly. We knew exactly where the problem would lead, we were just distracted, lazy and detached as well as believing (wrongly) we did not have the time to fix it.
Isn't this how relationships in our lives go? We go along and things look fine. Then the rain comes and before you know it the squall has passed and everything is fine again.
A bit later another squall comes and instead of moving out it hangs around for a while producing more intense downpours.
Those thunderclouds pass, but not long afterward more threatening clouds break and this time it's torrential. The eruption and devastation is frightening and cause for alarm. But this also passes eventually and while there was some obvious damage, quick repairs were made and soon it seemed clear again.
One by one the assaults keep coming - until one day the weight and the intensity crushes you. You can not bear up under one more drop.
Have you experienced this in relationships? If this is ringing true for you it's probably because we all have at one time or another experienced the devastating blow of relationships that suffer under the weight of encountering unrelenting and forceful cloudbursts. Who of you can name one person in your life who has not experienced relational pain and division? In fact, I can tell of multiple relational difficulties I've had over the years, some with friends and some with family members - most recently with my husband. I guess that's why the visual of the leaves struck me. We had a front row seat in our marriage and we saw the effects of multiple "storms" in our lives and our response was much the same - complacency and distraction. Thoughts of "it's not that bad" and "it'll blow over" took over and we were comforted when things seemed to get "a little better".
Only when the final devastating blow came were we jolted into believing it really was that bad. It took a merciful intervention of God in His grace to shock us out of our complacency.
Ironically, a friend commented to me "God has allowed the perfect storm in your life". That He did! Despite the sin and selfishness that permeated our marriage relationship, God's grace came in and rescued us from ourselves.
Here is the beautiful thing about grace. Our complacency and our laziness and our distract-ability did not and could never stop God's grace! I know - shocking right? Nothing bad we did would have ever slowed down or stopped God's rescue mission.
Paul Zahl says this about grace -
“What is grace? Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable. The cliché definition of grace is ‘unconditional love’. It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing…Let’s go a little further. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called ‘gifts’ (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is love, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…Grace is one-way love."While our sin reached (and continues to reach) far, God's grace reached further. We are resting in the undeserved and lavish grace of God that comes to us despite good days or bad, right responses or snarky ones, laziness or not...God's grace is that radical and that upside down! Christ did not die for perfect people or perfect marriages, Christ died to rescue sinners. The end.
Thank you Jesus!