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Living in Love and Grace

(Originally posted on WordPress: January 19, 2022)

He drew a circle that shut me out–

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But Love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle that took him in!

I first read this epigram by Edwin Markham as a young child growing up on Netherwood Avenue in Memphis, TN. I came across a book that was in the bookcase right behind the TV in the front room. It was a red book with gold foil apples embedded into it. I want to say it was my mom's book, but it could have been my dad's. The book was entitled Apples of Gold and it was filled with poems, quotes, wits and wisdoms. I would grab that book and read it often. I loved all the witty sayings.

I can remember quite vividly, as if it were just yesterday, the very first time I read that poem entitled "Outwitted." It struck a chord with me and I've never forgotten it. It has stayed with me through my life as I've met new people, forged new friendships and even encountered some difficult and challenging people. Some people have been so challenging that I would decide to just throw my hands up and say it's not worth the effort... But then, that poem would softly poke at my conscience and remind me that sometimes, even with the most challenging and difficult people, I have to extend myself to show love, kindness, grace and mercy.

I mean, isn't that how it is with us and God? We drew a circle around our lives that shut Him out... But God, who is love, had the wit to win. He drew a larger circle that took us in.

If He extended that grace to me, shouldn't I extend it to others? And when He lives in us, He enables us to do it. I know we hear a lot about only love those who can love you back. Only pour into those who can pour back into you. And I get it. I really do. You don't want people to deplete you, constantly taking and never giving back. There are some truly narcissistic, narrow-minded people who only want to take advantage of you and are really beyond help. But what if there's someone in your life who is simply incapable of giving back because they never learned how? What if they've been so depleted by abuse and misuse that they have nothing left to give? If we all only give to those who can give back to us, what happens to those people? What happens to those souls? And where is the sacrificial love of God displayed and exemplified in our life, if we only love those who we can get something back from? What if God had done that to us? None of us have the capacity to give anything to Him unless He gives it to us first. And all He asks is that, what He extends to us, we extend to others.

Of course, don't let anyone strip you of everything you have... your dignity, your respect, your character. And I'm definitely not advocating that we become enablers. But when it comes to loving people and pouring into others (and I don't mean with finances, but with time, presence, knowledge, wisdom - "such as you have, give..."), I have found that the more I pour, especially into the life of someone who doesn't have the capacity to pour back, God always sends someone else to pour back into me. He sends someone with just the right word of encouragement to put back into me what I just extended to someone else. I have also found that the more I pour into others, the more God Himself pours back into me. But I have to allow God to replenish, restore and renew me. I have to spend time getting into His presence so he can do what He does so well. Yes, the human touch is wonderful and so necessary... we need each other, and God Himself said it's not good for man to be alone... but God's touch supercedes all. And He'll let you encounter and experience both.

At the end of the day, I believe it's all about perspective. If I see it as a chore to love those who are incapable of loving me back, then yes, it's burdensome. But if I see it as a blessing to be able to pour into someone else's life, then... It's a blessing "to me." How do you think Mother Teresa lived a life of complete sacrifice? Because she saw the joy in giving and living for others.

God does not require all of us to live the sacrificial life of Mother Teresa, but He does require of us to live a life of love and grace.

"What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

My prayer...

Lord, show me Your perspective so that I may always see things from Your vantage point, and view people and life through Your eyes. You love us all and extend grace and mercy to each of us everyday. Help me to do the same. Teach me to love as You love and to see every soul as a soul in need of Your salvation. Forgive me for the times I failed You by not loving others as I should, especially those You assigned to me and aligned my life with for the purpose of being an example of You to them in the earth. Help me to always be aware of opportunities to extend grace and mercy and give me a heart to willingly do so.

This I ask in Jesus' name. Amen.

He drew a circle that shut me out–

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But Love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle that took him in!

- Edward Markham

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