The Gaze of Grace

Some thoughts, after I cried tonight when I heard these tender lyrics:

Jesus bends to hear you breathe
And His tender hands are holding you tonight
And His heart is ravished when you look, when you look at Him
And oh, the endless mercy in His eyes

It's alarming yet immensely comforting that there is nowhere I could go to escape His presence.

I've come to realize that one of my biggest fears is that of being pursued, chased. I admit sheepishly that my heart rate increases and chills run down my spine when I feel someone running, or even walking close behind me. Granted, if a person chased me with the intent to harm me, then the reflex to run is probably a safe one. But my heart hurts when I realize that I do this to God Himself.

His closeness is chasing me. And I run. I know I've mentioned before that I fear intimacy. There remains this fear of turning around and looking directly into His eyes -- the endless mercy in His eyes. Why does it hurt so much, His tender gaze? Because deep down within, my pride is burning in a painful demise.

In worship, whether I'm singing on a stage or in the quiet corner of my living room, I am always given those moments to turn and gaze. Actually, worship literally means to "turn and kiss." So we not only turn around in moments of worship to face His visage. Worship entails action: adoration, connection, vulnerability, surrender.

Maybe it's falling. Releasing clenched fingers of pride and self-sufficiency which cling so desperately to the ledge of merit and will, and falling into His arms of grace. Grace is so humbling. It's certainly unfair. I could be a Pharisee my entire life, yet all of my pride built upon religious ritual would melt beneath it's warmth and light. A grace so glorious.

I never had a "conversion" so to speak, a dramatic turn from sin which thrust me suddenly at the foot of the cross. I have always known who God is, who Jesus is. I lamented to Jesus one night, "God, why don't I have a testimony like so many others? I need a radical conversion." But He whispered gently into my ear, "You don't need a radical conversion, Noelle. You need only to experience my love and grace full-fold." It has been such a gradual process to adopt this idea of grace, even throughout the years of remaining close to the truth of Christ. But the older I get, the more I recognize the sinner within myself, the more I recognize my need for grace the same as anybody else.

Maybe Grace is something we will wrestle with our whole lives, something that we may never understand while we are trapped in this fleshly vessels so prone to prideful ways.

This verse rings loud and clear ever and always: By grace we have been saved, through faith. We didn't earn it ourselves -- it's a gift from God. It's not of works, even if we are tempted to think so.

I think that the more we make a heartfelt, honest attempt to grasp grace, our eyes will be opened to His hands that are holding us, to the beaming smile of the Father of lights, to the endless mercy in His eyes. Grace is freedom from hiding and shame. Its fervency chases us. If we understand this great grace, our natural response would be to turn and kiss, to worship and embrace, to hold onto the joy that it brings and never, ever let go.

Oh Abba, thank You for Your great grace!

** Lyrics from "Little Light" by Matt Hammitt
   Verse a paraphrase of Ephesians 2:8

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