“Sin and grace and slouching beasts”

Grace has been on my mind recently, simply because I’ve been thinking a lot about sin.

Sadly, it has occurred to me that my vices are far bolder than my virtues. Of course, sin is all over the place, being as opportunistic as sin is. It has a way of getting its hands into everything. Sometimes it sits out in the open, often fully naked and proud of it. It winks at you when you walk by. Sometimes it tries to disguise itself, especially around things you hold dear, sneaky and disruptive, all at once. It could be said that it has no shame; it is bold and smug, and though it promises comfort, it always turns out to be the most unfaithful of friends. In courting you, you will discover that it is soon bored with your good intentions and lofty ideals and earnest thoughts. You will never be enough to satisfy its desires.

But, on the other hand, and only to be fair, sin always has the best stories to tell, and so, of course, that’s exactly why it is so attractive.

Grace appears less interesting. It prays in quiet corners, and though it is not shy, it is humble. It is a waltz, when the music overtakes you. Grace, because it is most often revelatory, pops in at the strangest times, in the oddest locations, with no intention of frightening you, though it sometimes does. Sometimes grace breaks through doors, wounded and hopeful, and tells you “Peace” at that very moment when you’re at the end of your rope, though it refuses to play the hero. Grace calls us, a sweet and sincere courage, daring you to place your ear to a loved one’s chest, and simply listen, to trust. That thump and flow that is all beauty, that is gratitude and gift, and makes your own heart soften with your shared vulnerability and mortal hopes. And every so often, you find something has broken open, and you realize that whatever that something was, will never be the same again. It has left its gift in small blessings and ways of seeing, and now, like it or not, you are tied forever to mystery and dirt and small luminous things.

Beasts continue to slouch toward Bethlehem. Tired, only a few give weight to the cross and resurrection, even fewer to the Incarnation, because after all, cradles can only hold so much. Doubt is everywhere, and truth is up for grabs. Sin feels the only honest giver, and death appears to be the final reality. And being so weary, it seems that as our despair grows more domesticated, we grow more certain of it.

But there is something else, another narrative. Though grace is revelatory and peculiar, quirky and particular, it is also a story that refuses to be either tyrannical, or romantic. It is an awful, terrible, simple story about a God becoming flesh. A hardly credible story where God’s story enters ours. A story that begins and ends with the risen Christ, who so turns over what you know and trust and believe, that now, grace is the freedom to dare and surrender. And maybe in this release, you are able to glimpse – if for only a moment, a pinprick in the veil – the raising of the dead. You are given an unreasonable truth that you were loved into being, and sin will not define you. A devastating truth that you are infinitely loved, even when you will not be.