Monday, July 1, 2013

The Grace of Watermelon

Furoshiki-wrapped Christmas gift
I am terrible at giving gifts.  A real disaster.  I get the cold sweats every time birthdays or Christmas rolls around. I never know what to get anyone, even the people I love the most.  I often buy presents in bulk! For example on any given year all the kids in our extended family will get the same t-shirt that has the name of whatever SE Asian country we visited on vacation.  Lame.

God on the other hand is amazing at giving gifts.  I get a "Hey thanks!" and I deserve a "Seriously?  What were you thinking?"  God deserves an eternity of praise and what he gets instead are definitions!

We love to try to define grace.  For example acronyms "God's Riches at Christ's Expense."  Comparisons, "Grace is receiving gift we didn't deserve; mercy is not receiving the punishment we did deserve!" Or the classics, "unmerited favor."  I find the definitions too simple and too complex in the same breath. Grace just means gift.  It implies that I didn't deserve it, ask for it, or somehow earn it.  It's a gift.  That's simple.  The moment I open my eyes to see what the "simple" definition might entail I am stunned by the sheer extravagance of God's grace. 

Take watermelon for an example.  Yesterday, coming in after a run, I was beet-red, sweaty and exhausted.  Spying half a watermelon in the fridge I cut a plateful and collapsed on the couch.  Then I thought, out of all the fruits in the world, what inspired God to make something cool, sweet and wet ripe in the middle of the summer when we need it the most?  What caused him to create dozens of kinds of fruits, ripe throughout the year, in a variety of colors and flavors and make them all GOOD for us?  That's astonishing.  

You know, he could have created just one kind of food, bland and ubiquitous.  Like manna or some kind of ration bar.  Instead he extravagantly gave every kind of green plant for food (Genesis 1: 30). It's a simple example, but it is the truth of God's way.  His grace in creation was to make it impossibly diverse.  

He didn't just make a sun and a moon.  He made a solar system, inside of a galaxy filled with thousands of suns that we know as stars.  Although the ones we see with our naked eye are useful to us as a means of navigation and time keeping, as a whole the stars are entirely extravagant. Do you know how MANY of them there are?  God knows. He has them numbered and named (Psalms 147:4) When God comments that Abraham will have as many descendants as the stars in the sky, it meant more than Abraham could understand. The stars praise God in song just like we do (Psalms 148:3, Isaiah 40:26).  

Or how about Adam?   God could have spoken him into existence just like the pig and baboon before him.  Instead he personally formed his body.  He could have commanded him to breathe.  Instead he breathed air/soul (same word in the Hebrew I'm told) into him, and he became alive.  Gift after gift.

You know when we get an extravagant gift we always say the same thing, "You didn't have to!"  Well that's what I want to say to God.  "You didn't have to!"  And he didn't.  He didn't have to make millions of stars.  He didn't have to make endless varieties of life. He didn't have to create that perfectly ripe, fat watermelon in my fridge either.  He just didn't have to. 

But he did.  Romans says the very creation declares the nature of God.  The Psalmist sang that the heavens above us - sun, stars, and moon - declare the glory and righteousness of God. (Psalms 19, 96, 97) All the amazing things he made, they tell us about him.  

I want to spend this month exploring the extravagant grace that God gives us especially the grace that he gives us as Christians.  I hope you'll come along and as you read I hope you'll be struck again and again but all the things he didn't have to do.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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