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Grace between 7 and 8

March 5, 2012

The other day I heard a quote about what constitutes a good marriage that went something like this – “You know you have a good marriage when the one who knows you best loves you the most.”  That night Peggy and I talked about it and we agreed that it was probably true. 

All of us wear masks.  I am not talking here about hiding crimes or secret horrible sins; I am talking about just not letting people see all of us.  There are things about us – things we think, the ways we act, the emotions we have, that we do our best to hide from others.  We don’t want to, don’t need to and probably shouldn’t tell everyone everything about ourselves.  But spouses, particularly after a long marriage, pretty much know all those things; or at least enough of them to have figured us out.  And, in a good marriage, they still love us.

Peggy tells me that I have a habit of “putting things 90% away.”  I will use a tool or appliance or something and, when done, walk it back to where it is kept and drop it on the counter.  In my mind at the time I am focused on whatever task I am doing and assume that I will get back to it later but, in the meantime, the item is generally where I could expect to find it.  This trait clashes with one of Peggy’s, her need to have an orderly home where everything is in its proper place.  As a result she looks at the item “90% away” and can’t imagine why I didn’t go the remaining 10%.  Of course, from my point of view, I will find that there are things I intend to get back to in a few minutes that get “put away” with a speed that almost makes me feel they have vanished.

In the end however, we have two choices.  We can let these traits really bug us; or we can see them as endearing qualities.  Peggy, to my eternal gratitude, has chosen to see my habit as “Tom being Tom” and not something that drives her nuts.  I in turn can see items that seemingly have vanished from where I left them as proof that my dear wife has passed by.  We each choose endearment over annoyance.

But, until I have confessed it here, this trait was something that was part of my “mask” with all except Peggy.  There is nobody I have ever seen or heard that does a more thorough or revealing dropping of his mask then Paul does in Romans 7.  In this chapter, the best of the apostles; the one we might think of as the most spiritual; lays open his inner struggles.  Nobody I have ever met, nobody in any church, least of all me, has ever stated flat out that they are always doing the things they don’t want to do.  Frankly, in most of our churches today, Romans 7 sounds like the preamble to a resignation in shame.

But, instead, what it leads to is Romans 8, the ultimate rejoicing in Paul’s freedom and standing before God.  I don’t usually mark up my Bible with notes, mainly because I have no confidence in my own scholarship.  I am never sure that what I think about that verse today will be what I think about it tomorrow.  But I have written the word “grace” between the last verse of Romans 7 and the first of Romans 8.  Nothing else makes that transition possible.

In our lives, in our marriages, in our churches, in our families, in every relationship we have, sooner or later the mask slips and we have a Romans 7 moment.  There we stand, our real selves exposed, needing grace and fearing condemnation.  Or perhaps we are the one looking at a Romans 7 moment needing to decide how to act.  Will I give grace or condemnation?

Our world is full of sin, and full of masks.  May our hearts, our homes, our churches be filled with the grace that is needed between 7 and 8.


From → Christianity

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