Last week a young, African-American, single mother randomly knocked on my door…
“Do you believe in second chances?”
Never wanting to miss an opportunity for meaningful dialogue and encouragement, I said:
“Of course. I believe in second, third, even sixty-fifth chances.”
She shared the toughness of her life thus far. She now wanted to work hard and change the trajectory of her and her daughter’s future. How could we help?
It made me think about how generous or stingy we are with those chances… how for whatever reason, we justify drawing the line somewhere, believing we’ve offered enough chances already…
“You’ve gone too far,” we think… concluding that grace is no longer necessary nor even wise…
And just like that, in all of our infinite, perceived wisdom, we put limits on grace.
While there certainly is a time for healthy, relational boundaries, I’m not sure I can wrap my brain around the need for stern limitations on grace.
Grace is unmerited favor… meaning there is nothing we have done to deserve it.
But often — especially in our increasingly fractious culture, we seems more generous with our “ungrace.”
Ungrace equates to grace’s absence; it is the declaration that because grace is undeserved — as inherent in its definition — we should withhold it.
My fear, friends, is that we are quickly becoming more of a culture of ungrace. Because we can sense the undeserving-ness — often deeply — we justify the withholding of kindness. We justify a lack of forgiveness and respect. We justify a lack of forbearance with one another.
That’s part of the beauty of Representative-elect Dan Crenshaw’s interaction with Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson last week.
Davidson publicly, cruelly insulted Crenshaw as a candidate. He mocked a man, maimed during his military service in Afghanistan. But instead of ranting and raving and ensuring Davidson “got what he deserved,” Crenshaw offered Davidson what he did not.
After appearing on SNL alongside Davidson, joking together — after also then, Davidson’s apology and Crenshaw’s forgiveness — Crenshaw said the following about their exchange:
“We were hesitant at first… We weren’t sure what the skit was going to look like… but in the end we decided to do it. And we decided to do it because what better platform than to sort of give a united message for the country, talk about forgiveness and talk about veterans…
It felt good. It felt like the right thing to do. I would appreciate it if everybody would stop looking for reasons to be offended, and that’s what this was all about.”
Friends, I understand that on different days, we each have cause to be offended. Dan Crenshaw certainly did. But our offense is impeding our offering of grace. Our offense is causing us to limit the number of extended chances. Our offense is breeding ungrace.
I had a fantastic conversation with the young woman at my door last week. After authentic connecting, an encouraging sale, and some mutual thanks to the good Lord above, we both walked away in gratitude and humble joy.
May we always believe in those second, third, and even sixty-fifth chances.