You know, I don't understand grace. This idea of giving generously without reservation to someone who not only doesn't deserve to be given anything, but instead deserves justice and retribution is absolutely foreign to me. I am boggled by grace.
Performance I understand. It was what my childhood was based on. I put in so much effort into the work I was assigned and I would get a certain grade, and that in turn got me attention, praise, even affection. My worth was based on my performance. How "perfect" could I be? If I did everything I was supposed to, acted the way I was expected to, stayed quiet and in the background, and didn't cause a disturbance, then I was accepted and allowed to pretty much do whatever I wanted, as long as I didn't bother anyone else. Publicly I was exactly as everyone wanted me to be. Privately, I was a complete rebel.
Performance makes sense. You show up and do your job and get paid. Do it well and you get promoted. Do it very well and you get paid well, get recognition and maybe even start your own business. It works in most relationships too. Treat people kindly and most people will be your friend. Be mean and no one likes you. Scare people and they will do what you want, out of fear. It's not that hard to understand. Performance works.
It's this law of sowing and reaping; karma, to borrow a term, that you get what you give. Even as a Christian, it works to some degree. After all, the promise is to give generously and it will be given back to you. Treat others the way you want to be treated. The only difference is that we're encouraged to go first more, to give more, to hold fewer expectations and forgive quickly.
Except when it comes to God.
God doesn't follow any of these "life rules". He doesn't work the way the rest of the world works. And while church doctrine teaches give to get, God.. doesn't get much out of His giving. At least, He doesn't get back near anything what He gave. And He doesn't wait for performance to deserve His gifts.
This is grace.
Grace is the unmerited, undeserved, generous-beyond-belief, giving-without-getting attitude that God has towards us. A lyric from my new favorite song, MercyMe's Flawless says that He could "take a filthy wretch like me, and wrap him up in righteousness.. but that's exactly what He did." This blows my mind. That I, in my shame, in my poor choices and just plain rebellion, would become.. flawless.. perfect.. utterly whole.. because of what He did, is incomprehensible.
I understand performance very well. Performance is how I lived my life, and still, to a large degree, live my life now. But this thing called grace, while incredible and unbelievable, is exactly what my grateful heart needed. I don't understand it at all. I just live, trustingly accepting that it's true, and that it's mine.