It shifted in a moment. Heaven made robes for earth. An animal was killed and skinned, and its blood saturated the earth. The skins were handed to two people who suddenly knew too much about vulnerability and nothing but a dim reminder of the innocence with which they began that day. They were terrified.
But the Lord God had already begun to turn eternal love earthward. His new gift we would learn to call grace. And grace’s first action included a bloodstained robe to cover the terrible implication of primal guilt. When now we speak of grace, we swiftly (and appropriately) move to God’s love bent earthward as His only Son’s blood soaked the ground and another robe was disposed of: grace needed by all of us without distinction .“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23,24)
But we ought not stop there.The creative eternal love we know as grace is not one-size-fits-all on this side of the cross. God’s grace for his adopted children is as creative and as personal as our need. I have had several friends in terrible circumstances in the last few years. And one of the truths I have learned to name early on is this: “God will not give me the grace that you need. He will give you the grace that you need.”
This is often of overwhelming comfort to both of us when we realize that the particular grace I have been given for the day (say, in the form of guidance and patience) does not come close to what my friend needs (like the strength to take the next breath) when loss and pain are far deeper than another human being can truly know . But there is yet another truth. This re-creative, sustaining, transformative grace is not a “thing” but the particular quality in the presence of a person: the Holy Spirit. He “in-graces” open hearts and fills us with what we need in any given moment .
Christians throughout the centuries have meditated on the wonder of the vitality of God’s earth-winding grace as Paul experienced and wrote of it at the beginning of Romans 5.“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-5).
Try this: We have also obtained access by faith into “the strengthening presence of the Holy Spirit” in which we stand. Grace bent earthward is never a mere thing, it is a particular facet of the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, the one who cries, “Abba!” “Father!” in us. And, for me, such understanding makes my prayers for God’s grace–whether for others or for myself-much less vague, much more specific, and because I am asking for the presence of a person, not just an “it,” I an enabled to ask with greater clarity and confidence, and rejoice to see the Lord pour out his love again.
Father, pour out your Holy Spirit into our hearts with the particular grace, the unique facet of the Spirit’s presence that is needed for today. We ask this through Jesus Christ, through whose fullness we continue to receive, grace upon grace. Amen.