When he [Christ] came, he announced the good news of peace to you who were far away from God and to those who were near.
I spent a large portion of my day today giving backpacks out at the school that our church inhabits. It's been a priority to build a posture of love and service to the staff and students over the past 9 years. One of the projects we do annually is gather the supplies each kindergartner needs, and give every one of them a fully equipped backpack that they receive during their kindergarten orientation. Every student receives a backpack with all their supplies, regardless of need. This does offer care for struggling families, but also equity because all students receive the same items. The lines aren't drawn between students with brand named glue sticks or the ones who purchased from Save-A-Lot!
It's such a joy to distribute these yearly. But inevitably, as families come through the gym past the various information tables, some parents pull their kids away from the free backpack table. "We don't need one of those," they tell their child. I have to quickly interject and say,
"No, there's one for her! Each student is intended to receive one, and we have enough for eacheveryone. It's our gift, please, take one!"
Most of the time that convinces them, but not always.
I was reminded again today at how difficult it can be to enjoy the gift of God's grace at times when we feel like we aren't truly "desperate." It's not surprising that the times when we seek out God's presence the most are when we are struggling. Yet as I stood there behind a table of backpacks, urging families to receive the good things that had already been prepared for them regardless of felt need, I thought that this must be God's perspective. When we say, "It's ok, I'm doing fine today. Let those who really need it have the grace and peace," we are missing out on receiving the all-the-time available peace of God. And God has a complete abundance of it for all of us, so we don't even need to make sure there's some leftover for others!
We often talk honestly around our church about those moments where things are ROUGH in life and faith. Jesus is always a soft place to land in those moments.
But let's acknowledge the inverse today. If you are in a really good spot right now, don't ignore today's opportunity to draw near to God and receive grace. Don't think that because you're alright, it's not the right time to receive. Don't just walk on by. Jesus died for you when you are at your worst and when you're at your best. The gift of life, the gift of God's presence, the gift of peace-- is always worth receiving, and you will be surprised at the joy and provision it will bring, even if you feel like you're getting along pretty well right now. And it builds in us a humility that flies the face of rugged self-sufficiency.
In fact, in the moments that we lean into our connection with Jesus and we're NOT in crisis, we often find that we have fresh joy and energy and love to pass on to others, because God multiplies our capacity for goodness in those moments. But it only happens as we choose to follow each day, keeping our eyes on Jesus.
Maybe today you're feeling the crunch of life. Or maybe you're feeling like you're really doing well! Both are ok. Both are opportunities to receive the gift of Jesus- love and presence and mercy and peace and wholeness. When we do, life overflows with gratitude. I invite you today to pause long enough to enjoy the unexpected blessing of a God who never steps loving you.
Jesus, I need you when I'm doing well and when I'm not. Break down my self-sufficiency to receive the gift of grace today.