Monday, May 21, 2012

Anything But Gracious

"The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love." -Psalm 145:8

What does it mean to be gracious?

Being gracious means being gentle, being forgiving, being slow to anger, merciful, and compassionate.  It means cutting the other person some slack.  It means not reacting even if you're justified in doing so.

It means being like God.

I admit, I often want to throw temper tantrums. I want to freak out and melt down and scream and cry and pound on the floor with my fists.  I want to cause a ruckus until I get what I want, you big meanie!

If I did, though, I think my life would look vastly different, and definitely not in a good way.

I'm just going to come out and say it:  my Daddy, God, prevents me from doing a lot of stupid stuff.

A couple Saturdays ago, when I was sitting alone during my lunch break at work, God reminded me of a moment about six months ago when I wanted to throw a temper tantrum the likes of which the world has never seen.  It just kept coming back to me, this moment, like it was yesterday.  I was hurt and angry and upset and I wanted to demand that the car I was in turn itself right around and go back again.  I wanted to pick up my toys and go home and that would be that.  How dare you do this to me?!

I really wanted to.  I almost did, in fact.  But I knew - with God's help, I remember that somehow I knew - that I wasn't supposed to behave that way.  Not now.  Not this time.  I wasn't supposed to throw the temper tantrum.  I literally, no word of a lie, was not able to.  Instead, I had to be gracious.  And with my Lord's very real help, I was.

God reminded me of how that moment, that hour, felt.  I remembered all the feelings of hurt and how I wanted to just throw in the towel right there.  And then He whispered, "Aren't you glad you didn't?"

My breath caught.  Sitting there at one of the little tables they have for us to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine amidst the concrete of the corporate call center where I work, I realized what could have been if I hadn't listened to God.  If He hadn't physically prevented me from throwing the tantrum I wanted to.  How different things would be.  How much I would have missed.  How much of God's will would not have been done.  How much of a tragedy it would have all been.  I honestly nearly cried right there thinking about it.

How much does being gracious really cost you?  Your pride, for a moment?  Is pride really worth it?  Not for my money.  Pride in being indignant, superior, offended...versus being kind, forgiving, and loving?  Being known as gentle rather than tough?  Being real with someone rather than putting up a wall of "protection"?

When I realized how much God had saved me from myself that day six months ago, it was all I could do not to kneel down on the ground right there in the middle of my workday and praise Him.  I probably should have, to be honest.  I did later, when I drove home from work and stopped at my church, kneeling at the altar in humble thankfulness.

I want Daddy to continue to keep me from my temper tantrums.  They don't accomplish anything.  Grace is what moves relationships, ministries, and God's will forward.  And if I'm known as gentle rather than tough, well, that's just fine by me.

Because in my experience, I can't afford to be anything but gracious.