Slinking into the rocking chair, I let the spine fall open on my well-worn Bible, like an invitation into Majesty. I glance down at the page, and my eyes fall on a bold red rectangle, squaring off words. 1 Corinthians 12:22-26, to be exact. Leaning over the God-breath inked into linen-like pages, I soak.
“On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on those we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable…”
My eyes track through the rest of the red block, but my mind lingers here with this thought… When we bestow abundance honor on the people we see as immature, annoying, insignificant, unskilled, etc., they become more presentable. The truth is, we can’t bestow honest honor on them, if we continue to see them as all these things.
I begin to reminisce about our early days in the church. The days where we were a complete train-wreck. As I try to think of some short-handed way of explaining our early years, I’m hard-pressed to summarize. We stunk from the inside out. We had short-fuses and were constantly blowing up at each other. We had no self-control, no other-mindedness, no polish. We were simply selfish, unkind, ignorant, self-righteous, judgmental, and immature.
Yet there were these beautiful people that came alongside us and loved us anyways. They didn’t treat us like we were annoying. They saw our potential and loved us as though we were who we were to become. They had the polish, and they gently rub it into us until we shone. Their polish was “Grace”.
I am bound to Christ in ways I might not experience had I been a little more presentable from the start. There are a lot of folks who don’t wear their stains and scarlet letters on the front of their shirt like I did. I had some serious baggage when I came to Christ and it manifested in how I treated myself and everyone around me.
At some point, it wasn’t just others who needed to polish me with Grace. I also needed to polish myself. I don’t mean I had to make myself look better on the outside. I mean I needed to learn to tread tenderly with my own soul. I had to learn that if God didn’t condemn me for things, I ought not either.
We can understand theologically the work of the Cross, but until it penetrates us, and we learn to embrace our imperfects as God’s means of shining His brilliance through the cracks of our soul… Until we learn to forgive and show compassion to ourselves… Until we understand the compassions of Christ that teaches us how to do so… we can never truly be whole.
We can’t bestow abundant honor (Grace) on others, if we won’t bestow it on ourselves. And why shouldn’t we? God offers it freely through the Cross! It is our’s for the receiving!
Twenty-four years and some months later, after I first encountered that old, rugged, marvelous Cross, I can now tell you how grateful I am that I have been the weaker member of the Body… the outcast and the hoodlum… the obnoxious, immature, rough-around-the-edges one… because now I understand the trickle down of Grace.
Grace was a long, hard sell with me. I had a lot of shame, and shame butts heads with Grace.
But Grace has a way of lubricating deep places in the soul. And it has lubricated mine. Now I understand how those older, sweeter saints had been able to love us so well with all our rough edges… Because they also understood the trickle down of Grace. They understood that just because someone wears their shame on their sleeve doesn’t make them any less beloved of God, or worthy of the love of His people. And because they spent their time kneeling at the foot of the Cross, letting it soak in deep, reminding them of their own desperate need and His overflowing abundance of Grace!