Going Rogue: The Search for Grace Lost

On Monday, the snow drifted down in silent beauty.  I loaded the dogs in the mini van, navigated the icy roads, and slid into my favorite trail head.  Braving the weather proved worthwhile, as I ran in complete solitude.  The utter quiet filled my soul with peace, the landscape (painted white) brought joy, and the crisp air-filled my lungs with new life.  Every twist of the trail exploded with fresh perspective, making the final turn to the parking lot bitter-sweet.  Climbing back into the mini van, I glanced down to find my usually mud stained shoes crisp and clean — like fresh out of the box.

I smiled at the sight, remembering an oft quoted verse “though your sins were as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”  The scripture speaks of God’s grace through Christ’s sacrifice; His blood making the stains of our sins white as the freshly fallen snow.  The kind of snow that brings beauty and peace, new life and fresh perspective.  I admired my clean shoes, thanking God for bringing that same purity into my notoriously imperfect life.

I tried to relive the experience on Tuesday. But overnight the snow had melted, freezing again in slushy sheets of ice.  That same icy mess hung from the trees causing the forest to groan under the weight.  Suddenly my peace and joy became overwhelmed with tentative steps.  My feet were turned around by an eerie feeling that it could all crash down, my run cut short by ominous branches.  By Wednesday the temperatures rose bringing torrents of rain.  The final flakes were literally washed away as the melted snow turned brown with dirt and rushed down the hillside. On a trail enjoyed just days earlier, a ten foot wide river made the route impassable and forced us to turn back.

Thursday, swept in with gusts of wind and sideways rain.  The soil could not hold the moisture, causing roots to loosen and fallen trees to create barriers. On Friday, one large tree let go of its roots and the soil gave way. An entire hillside tumbled, erasing a beloved trail. Portions of the road followed, disconnecting the south side of the forest from its north and east counterparts. The forest service closed the woods for the first time, pleading with enthusiasts to avoid nature’s unsteady furry.

Not obsessively obedient, a friend and I went rogue today hoping to assess the damage.  The destruction left us unsettled, saddened by the loss.  Healthy trees, lay shattered on the ground around us.  Crisscrossed oaks leaned upon one another through the settling fog.  Our joy was quickly whisked away by the bellowing winds swaying the trees above our heads.  We ran on, looking for the usual rush of a Sunday dash.  I wanted more than anything to find that moment from Monday, to experience that kind of grace.

What I found was a sobering picture of grace lost.

All faith begins with grace; a relationship with God indulging in the vast forgiveness provided by the blood of Christ.  Faith then flourishes in the promise of peace and new life.  Fresh perspective and joy put feet to faith, urging the believer to continue and not turn back.

The power of grace comparable only to the power of what happens when grace is drowned out by law.

God does not change, His grace is not bound by time nor space.  He does not wash grace from our lives — we do. It is we who recall one another’s failures, who demand perfection from imperfect beings, who refuse to repay the forgiveness that we received at no cost. We approach one another with law instead of love, with rules instead of righteousness, with judgment instead of justice;  we weigh one another down with a burden that even we cannot bear.  We saturate the soil, weaken the roots . . .

How important is it that we reach out to one another as God would reach: with the hand of grace? Consider the river of water that blocked the way, forcing a turning back. Consider the fallen branches, making impassable a once solid path. Consider the slide.  The power of one tree letting go; collapsing the hillside and separating the once unified woods.

God has designed us for relationship, intertwining our  roots.  Like it or not we affect one another for better or worse.  We can blanket one another with grace bringing joy and peace.  Or we can rain down upon one another dividing and barring the way.

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God . . .(Hebrews 12:15),” this is our call.