I could sing the praises of the wild, untamed grace I have experienced. Kind words at just the right time. Forgiveness, given and received. The ability to grow and change. The beauty of common graces, if I will only have eyes to see them.
But sometimes I think we talk about grace so much that I forget that what I do matters. It matters not just for my “witness” or for what other people think; it matters for me.
I have read several books lately that talk about the importance of actions in a Jesus-follower’s life. Jesus talked a lot about actions, it turns out, and our actions reveal our hearts, what we really believe. In Insurrection, Pete Rollins says, “All the energy that is exerted in attempting to close the gap between what we think and how we act fails to acknowledge that our practices do not fall short of our beliefs, but are the concrete material expression of them. In other words, our outer world is not something that needs to be brought into line with our inner world, but is an expression of it.” If you are like me, this is a fearsome thing. What I claim to believe is different than the ways that I usually act.
I can hear the people out there who are wincing that this is too works-based, that we aren’t saved by our actions, that grace. We don’t earn God’s favor through what we do, but I think it’s part of how we work out the meaning of our lives. Recently, I have been reflecting on the messages I got as a kid growing up in youth group. The youth in my church do a lot of service work that allows them to give and receive and that is also fun. Growing up, my youth group studied the Bible a lot, but I cannot remember ever actually helping someone. We never fed the hungry or clothed the naked or built shelter for the homeless. And I learned that it was better to talk about God than to actually go and do the things that Jesus said were important.
Let me tell you, I could talk a lot about God. I was much less comfortable giving to others from my heart, of my life.
This topic gets even more complicated when there are kids in the picture, whether they are mine or someone else’s. They see what I would prefer to hide: when my patience runs thin, when I am overwhelmed, when I am tired. They mostly want to know if I am kind. They want to know about my character. The way I show them that is not by explaining that I feed my kid organics or by summarizing the latest greatest book that is sweeping the internets. It is by being gracious, by standing up against injustice, by being brave. I tell them the truth when they ask, to the very best of my ability.
I want to teach Atticus that what he does is important. Not because he has to be good, not because of hypocrisy. But because of love. Because I hope the love of God changes things for him like it has for me. Because sometimes faith is in the doing. Sometimes it changes our hearts to live out the things that Jesus talked about. I want Atticus to know those stories from the Bible, to be able to breathe them in and out like I can. But I hope he learns, much earlier than I did, not to stop there.