My Dad taught (and still teaches) me that I should live my life such that it never becomes necessary to tell someone that I’m a Christian – they should know it by how I live. The basic commandments on which everything else in the Bible is based – to love God and to love other people – those should be close to my heart, and made evident by how I treat people. I don’t need to wear a cross, or proselytize to every person I meet. I should just behave with grace.
Most importantly, love should be evident in my actions. Love is not just a way of thinking or talking about God, other people, life. It is the manifestation of faith in giving people the benefit of the doubt and behaving with genuine grace toward people who I like, and people who drive me crazy. Most especially people who drive me crazy, even people who cause pain to those I love.
I think it’s likely my Dad picked this up from my Grandma, who is one of the most faith-filled ladies I know. She doesn’t preach it, she lives it. She’s good to people – all people. It’s not that I’ve never seen her get mad or hurt, but I have never seen her behave gracelessly. Many years back, her neighbor’s Akita got loose and attacked my grandma and her beloved 7 lb Pomeranian. The Akita knocked my Grandma to her feet, causing her to break her wrist, and rendering her unable to help as the Akita mauled and killed her constant companion. It was hideous. I was relatively young at the time, but remember that as one of few times I’ve seen my Grandma cry. The whole thing added acrimony to injury when her neighbors resisted helping to pay for my Grandma’s medical bills, causing the whole situation to go through court proceedings, and emotional fences were built thick and high.
Yet slowly, over years of tentative hello’s and a willingness to buy girl scout cookies from their kid and a grateful acceptance of help shoveling her driveway, my Grandma and her neighbors rebuilt trust. She treated her neighbors with grace. It was a nasty, nasty situation and a lot of us would probably have taken that pain and anger to the grave. My Grandma resolves that a life lived in grace is a life lived lighter, even when it’s difficult to get there. Her willingness to move through pain and rebuild trust astounds me.
I don’t get it right much of the time, but I think it’s a good aim to have. How can I put my faith – in God, in people, in Love… which, really, are all the same thing – into action? How can I live with grace for others and myself?