This week my dear friend Jess shared with me what she thinks of when she hears the word grace. She pointed me to this passage in missionary Amy Carmichael's book If, and it's become one of my favorite depictions of grace:
"Sometimes, when we are distressed by past failure and tormented by fear of failure in the future should we again set our faces toward Jerusalem, nothing helps so much as to give some familiar scripture time to enter into us and become part of our being.
The words 'Grace for grace' have been a help to me since I read in a little old book of Bishop Moule’s something that opened their meaning. (Till then I had not understood them.) He says 'for' means simply instead: 'The image is of a perpetual succession of supply; a displacement ever going on; ceaseless changes of need and demand.
'The picture before us is as of a river. Stand on its banks, and contemplate the flow of waters. A minutes passes, and another. Is it the same stream still? Yes. But is it the same water? No. The liquid mass that passed you a few seconds ago fills now another section of the channel; new water has displaced it, or if you please replaced it; water instead of water.
And so hour by hour, and year by year, and century by century, the process holds; one stream, other waters, living, not stagnant, because always in the great identity there is perpetual exchange. Grace takes the place of grace (and love takes the place of love); ever new, ever old, ever the same, ever fresh and young, for hour by hour, for year by year, through Christ.'"
Grace takes the place of grace, and love takes the place of love.
God is the rock; grace continually flows out of Him. We are the ones who change. I become fearful, anxious, worried, sad. I get mad at God. I question His plan and His goodness. My faith falters.
Yet He is there.
This passage reminds me of the story of the prodigal son. The father had utter compassion and care for his son, even after the son denied him and dishonored him in basically every way imaginable. Still the father forgives him, loves him, and celebrates his homecoming. I can't imagine being loved in such a radical way, but I am. You are, too.
The water never stops flowing. The waves of grace never stop washing over us.