Archives, Biography, Pondering, Wheaton

The Splendor of Grace

Increasingly, these days, I find myself crying “Lord, have mercy.”

I no longer find it very helpful to distinguish whether the emphasis of my cry is for me or for another. Somehow, as I get older, I find the veil between others and myself gets thinner.

I ache for marriages that are so terribly difficult—so often in ways that don’t appear to match neat Christian categories—causing extreme loneliness to be added to deep relational pain. Lord, have mercy.

I long for younger ones close to me to find ultimate meaning in their lives, and cry out regularly for mercy as they go searching for what they believe they want in the places where poison masquerades as water, and what seems good is so often the counterfeit. Lord, have mercy.

I know I’m in long-standing company as I pray this way. Kyrie eleison has been one of the major cries of the Church for centuries. “Please God, by your mercy withhold the wrath we deserve.”

But I find myself pleading for more than the absence of destruction. I do not just want my friends’ marriages not to split apart, but to be made new. I want places of brokenness in my own life to become places where “all my wounds cry alleluia.” And I do not just want my young friends merely to avoid the terrible effects of poison, but to drink of living water that quenches their thirst at a deeper place that they ever knew was possible.

What I am longing for is not only mercy, but grace. I long for the inner enlivening of what Jesus has won for us: perceptive grace, sustaining grace, purifying grace. I am calling out for a kind of living resource to fill my friends and myself—a resource on which I have no human right to lay claim, yet need with a desperation that deems any less intense intervention as utterly inadequate. I have been trusting the Spirit who lives within me to find the words, for I have had none.

But in this place of deep heart longing, the following statement from Hans urs von Balthasar’s great work on Prayer leapt this week from the page: “Petition is an acknowledgement of the void into which the splendor of grace may pour itself.” And springing from that one line, my own voice in prayer is renewed: Lord, crash through the bricks of hurt and defensiveness surrounding our hearts, that being filled with the splendor of your love, we might perceive each other anew. Lord, in your mercy, place your wells of living water around the troughs of poison where we so easily drink. Cause us to thirst, and then lead us to the place where the splendor of your forgiving, wooing grace quenches our parched thirst and fills our empty souls. Lord, strengthen us to face honestly and fully into our own places of brokenness. Wash the weary, bruised places, fill the cracks, restore us with your life-giving splendor once again.

Lord, have mercy. Fill our inner voids with your splendid grace. Amen.

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