The Grace Jar is not an actual jar. The Grace Jar, I have come to learn, is a metaphor for the grace that naturally dwells within me.
I hear it a lot, that notion that I have been infused somehow with a lot of grace. Grace to give. Grace to share. Grace to dole out at just the right time, typically to a person undeserving. Sometimes to those who do deserve it. "You handled that with such grace," I hear ... That's when I stop long enough to think why yes ... yes I did. Wonder where that came from?
Because let me be honest with you--grace does not come naturally to me. I live, daily, with a short fuse that has been--over time--elongated. It's still there, it just takes more to light it.
Now, I don't mean to make excuses, I'm just saying ... I got that short fuse from my father. Daddy was quick to blow but just as swift to apologize. It's our Irish blood, he'd say.
But Daddy was also the first to say, "You have to learn to tame it." Over the years, I saw him do this almost to the point of the opposite--Daddy could subdue fury until it purred and gave off a calming effect. I've tried to do the same. It's like a life-goal.
So, in my mind I created a Grace Jar filled with tiny slips of paper folded in two on which God has written all the right things to say when what I really want to spout are all the wrong things. The things that will lead to breakups. Or dissention so thick one can cut it with the proverbial knife. Or arguments that cannot be forgotten complete with words that cannot be unsaid. When the situation calls for it, I simply reach into the jar, pull out one piece of paper, unfold it, read from it, and ... voila! Grace abounds. Grace heals. Grace keeps us all together and on the same page.
Grace, says Merriam-Webster, is "unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification." It is also "a virtue coming from God."
For it is by grace that you have been saved, wrote the apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus. Yes, it saves us. Grace brings us to a place we could never reach otherwise. Not on our own, at least. It is by God's grace that I enter into relationship with Him. It is by God's grace (and mercy) that His Son died for me. It is by God's grace that I get up in the morning, make it through my day, go to bed every night. It is by God's grace ...
Do you find it interesting (I do) that grace is not one of those desirable fruits of the Spirit? Self-control ... yes. Kindness ... yes. Gentleness and forbearance ... oh, yes. But grace?
Maybe if you mix them all together...
So, you may be asking, where does one find a Grace Jar and how does one fill it? Does one go to a Grace Jar store to purchase one for yourself (and perhaps another as a gift for a friend or loved one)? Like a Pandora, can you buy a Grace Jar like a necklace or bracelet, but the pieces of paper filled with God-inspired words come separately? Do they come in those sold-separately bins, marked with "silver" and "gold" and "gemstones"?
And what happens if the moment comes when you need to reach into the Grace Jar for the right thing to say (and feel and believe) only to discover that it's empty? You pick it up, you peer inside, you juggle it a little and turn it upside down, but ... no. It. Is. Empty.
Yes, yes ... you meant to purchase more of the little pieces of paper folded in two and written on by God when you noticed--was it a week ago? A month?--that the Grace Jar had become only half-filled. Which makes it half-empty, by the way--for all you pessimists. You even went to Amazon to see if you could purchase them for less there because, let's face it, Christians can be many things and bargain-shoppers is one of them.
And, wouldn't you know it, they were on sale for less there and so you put them in your shopping cart but then the phone rang or someone came to the door or a favorite song came on Pandora and you found yourself looking up the artist on Wikipedia--didn't he die last year?--and ...
So you jump back on Amazon and (again, wouldn't you know it) they're now sold outof the item you were looking for. And, no, they don't know when they'll be back in stock. So now you're forced to get in the car and drive to the nearest Grace Jar store. Only it's a half-hour away. And that's without traffic. So, you wonder if they have an online store ... with a shopping cart ... that you will not neglect this time. Nothing but nothing will keep you from the purchase. By golly, you have your credit card in hand this time! Alas, no. The website says they want you to come in person--in person--just as you are. Which is good, because you're a mess right now.
I know you understand what I'm saying. Even if no one ever told you that you are a person filled with grace, you know exactly what I'm talking about. And I'll tell ya ... just recently, I reached into my Grace Jar, pulled out a piece of paper and, when the words didn't do their job, reached in for another and ... the jar was empty. I picked it up, I peered inside, I turned it upside down and jiggled it. I ran to Amazon, I went online to see if I could find an online store and ... nada.
That's when I knew ... it was time for me to go to the One who writes on the little pieces of paper folded in two. I was going to have to "come as I are," which was a mess. An absolute mess.
So, journey with me as I go to the Grace Jar store. See if you can find for yourself the right Jar ... and the proper pieces of paper, folded in two, and written on by God.*
*Copyright Eva Marie Everson