It might have taken time to sink in, but it did slowly, wonderfully, all the way down to your toes. Realization of all that it meant. Understanding. Belief. Could you stop smiling? That goofy grin spread across your face, mad with gladness, drunk with delight. Speechless. Laughter. Tears.
Was it when she said yes? Was it when he asked? Was it finding out that you were expecting a child? A surprise trip? An academic honor, being recognized at work, being personally thanked by someone you look up to, or just an unlooked for –totally thoughtful card or note in the mail?
Some of the delight is in the surprise, the unexpected. Some of it is the thought, the care, the personalism, the respect, the love expressed. And some of it is the gift itself, a gift that fills, that completes, that answers to something in us, perhaps prayed for, hoped for, dreamed for, or perhaps unarticulated but suddenly, wonderfully there. Something that fits exactly right. Just what you needed. Those words. That gift. That perfect.
Some of it is also the undeserved. You smile because it’s only you. Why you? What, me? Are you sure? Is the address right? You love me? There are others, you know. There are better people, more deserving, better looking, smarter, and definitely more intelligent. You know who you’re talking to, right?
There’s something dramatically freeing and restful. The world telescopes down into that moment, and you breathe easy. Your soul smiles, and your face can barely keep up. It’s Sabbath breaking out all over you.
This is the madness of grace. The giver is mad to have given, to have thought of giving, to have paid for it, to have said, to have done, to have asked, to have sent, and the gift is too good to be true, too right, too wonderful. And it doesn’t make sense that it should be yours, for you, to you. Check the address one more time. Are you sure there wasn’t some mistake? You’re talking to me? This is crazy.
I can’t shake the feeling that this is what Isaiah should sound like when we hear the Lord saying, “But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham, my friend” (Ps. 41:8) What? Is this the same Israel that has forsaken God, has turned to idols and abominations? God’s friend?
What would this have sounded like? Israel, that adulterous bride, that faithless nation, those rebel children, having squandered the inheritance, blind and diseased, homeless, filthy, lost in exile. “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel” (Is. 41:14).
God says He will bring charges against the nations for their evil, for their iniquities, for their abominations, and the one who will bring justice is… “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles” (Is. 42:1).
God raises up the prostitute, the beggar, the addict, the mentally retarded, the blind and the deaf, and he grips him by the hand, pulls him to his feet, and then lifts his hand in the air, clasped in His, like the winner of a prizefight and proudly proclaims, “This is my servant, my chosen one, and he will bring justice to the nations…”
What is this madness?
The nations are bewildered, but do not miss the baffled bewilderment of Israel. What? Me? I’m a beggar, a fool, an adulterous worm… I’m pretty sure you’ve got the wrong guy.
But God shakes His head and says, “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no savior” (Is. 43:10-11).
That ye may know and believe me.
This is the madness of grace. Let it bewilder you. Let it startle you. Let it make you laugh and cry. Let the words fail. There really aren’t any.
What? Me? Yes, you.