Swallowing Grace

I close Sunday nights at work. My managers think I’m a great closer because I leave the place spotless, but I hate closing. Not because of the mopping and the scrubbing and the dozen little things that always need done, but because it puts me in charge of my fellow co-workers for the night. No one leaves without my stamp of approval saying they did all they were supposed to do before they left.

This might not be a problem, except I’m somewhat of a doormat. I hate making waves. I don’t want to be that jerk who says, “Hey, I don’t think you did this well enough. Clean it again.”

For the most part, I’ve worked with a really great staff who will go the extra mile for me, but things have changed up in recent weeks, and last night… Well, last night, I had the ultimate test on my doormat character.

When my dear co-worker who will go unnamed in this post asked me to check her stuff, I was confused to find that she had only been assigned one task when everyone else had been assigned two, especially since I was the one assigning the tasks. But when I checked my list and looked at the job I had intended to give her, I was surprised to find my own name written there.

Now, I’m not one to assume bad things of people, so my first thought was, “Did I accidentally fill in my own name?” But no, that wasn’t my handwriting. When you looked at the rest of the list that I clearly wrote, it was obvious to see someone had erased this girl’s name and written mine in her place.

It was late. I was tired and confused and still naive enough not to assume the culprit was standing right next to me.

Then she made a fatal mistake. She saw the parmesan cheese shaker in my hand and asked if she needed to refill it and put it away.

My gaze snapped from the list to her face. “You wrapped the parm and pepper shakers?”


I looked at the list, then back to her, waiting for her to realize that she had just implicated herself in a crime. But judging by the fact that she wrote my name on a list where my name was never supposed to appear, I’m going to assume she wasn’t quite clever enough to realize she had “accidentally” done half of “my” task. Which wouldn’t make sense unless she knew the job was meant to be hers in the first place.

So there I am, waiting for her to stop lying to my face, when she asks, “So, am I good?”

And because I actually somewhat enjoy folding pizza boxes, I simply said, “Yeah, you’re good,” and scribbled my name on her cashout.

Minutes later, I was standing in the expo line with a stack of thirty pizza boxes, which caused quite a stir among my remaining co-workers, who knew the closer wasn’t responsible for tasks such as these.

“Did you give yourself that out?” one of them asked.

“No, but someone did.”

It wasn’t difficult for them to figure out what had happened, and that’s when the suggestions began.

“You shouldn’t just give her pizza boxes next week; you should give her something hard, like tea brewers.”

“Just give her an extra out. That’s what I would do.”

And I have to say all of their suggestions sounded really good. I could passive-aggressively make her Sunday nights miserable for as long as she works them. It’s really tempting to want to make her Sunday nights miserable, at least for a week or two.

But then I was driving home and God started stirring things up inside of me. He started talking about being a light in this world and reminded me of the passage in John 8 where Jesus extends grace to the woman caught in the act of adultery.

And that is when I knew for certain that, while revenge is sweet, grace is a bitter pill to swallow. Even in accepting it, your pride will be stung, but extending it to those who are unworthy… The best analogy I can come up with in this moment is that it’s like chugging a bottle of buffalo sauce, and that only makes sense if you know how the very smell of it nauseates me.

But it fits. When my stomach starts to swim at the thought of being the giver of grace in this situation, it’s about the only thing that fits.

I’m having a hard time imagining looking this co-worker in the eye and saying, “I know what you did with the outs list last week, and I forgive you. What do you say we start fresh?”

On the other hand, I can’t imagine it going any other way. God’s voice is loud in the hearts of those who have turned themselves over to Him.

So, I don’t know how this is going to turn out. Maybe I’ll say nothing and continue on with life as normal. Maybe I’ll keep the pencil poised over pizza boxes (and tea brewers and oh have fun with the soda machine) longer than I should. Or maybe I’ll finally find courage enough to open my mouth and speak the words that need to be said.


Lately I’ve been playing a whole lot of Civilization V, and I like to think it’s not in vain. I’m going to assume the majority of my readers are unfamiliar with the game, so I’ll give you a quick rundown:

Basically, you start out as this tiny little city, and over the course of however many hundred turns you are willing to devote to this game, you become an unstoppable world power. At least, you attempt to become an unstoppable world power because the only other option is being purged from the face of the earth and no one wants that. Mostly, you choose your battles wisely and try not to think about how this game is a tragic reminder of the actual state of our world.

For the sake of  this story, you need to know that for each large civilization, there are two city-states. These are little cities that take up small pockets of the world and sometimes grant gifts to the civilizations they deem friends or allies (which is a great perk).

Now, in this particular game, my nearest neighbor was the city-state known as Rio de Janeiro. Rio and I were friends for most of the game, then for whatever reason, they became more impressed with the growing nation of Siam than my humble little China. Normally, their declaring allegiance to another civilization wouldn’t be a problem (besides perhaps the little slap in the face that says I’m not good enough for them, but I digress), but on this particular day, Rio’s change of allegiance was a monumental mistake. You see, Siam was at war with Carthage, and Carthage just happened to be Rio’s neighbor to the north.

In my brother’s oh-so-insightful words: “Say goodbye to Rio.”

However, this is me and my world of silly fixations, and I didn’t want to say goodbye to Rio. So I turned to said brother, who is far more experienced in the game than I, and asked how I could save them.

“Well, maybe if you give them some money, it will make them like you more than Siam. If they’re allies with you, Dido will make peace with them.”

So I followed his counsel and dropped 250 gold pieces at their doorstep. They proclaimed their love for me and the Carthaginian army retreated back into their borders. All is well in the world, right? Wrong.

It took all of two turns for Rio to turn back to Siam and declare war on the Queen of Carthage once again.

That’s when I had this striking thought which I voiced aloud to whoever cared to listen:

“Is this how Jesus feels?”

I mean, talk about bad decisions. You start a war you cannot possibly win, and when I offer you a way out, you aren’t even going to take it? Stupid, stupid city-state.

The war elephants march in. The city falls and is marked with the symbol of chains. The borders bleed into the royal purple of Carthage. And I am far more distressed than I should be in this situation.

Because, Rio, my silly little Rio, don’t you know how I wanted to protect you?

And as much as I find God in this, I’m struck by something even more disconcerting.

I find myself in Rio de Janeiro.

How many times have I turned away, distracted by other, shiny things? How many times have I misplaced my allegiance? How many times have I found the world pressing in around me, leaving me with no one but myself to blame? How many times have I worn chains and bled the colors of the enemy?

And how many times has God watched the mess I’ve made of my life while whispering, “Rebekah, my silly little Rebekah, don’t you know how I wanted to protect you?”

But this is not the end of the story. It never is.

Because Carthage is not the only one with an army. I have my resources, too. I come sweeping in like a riptide, like a hurricane, purging the city of every trace of Dido’s army. And when asked what I want to do with the city, I don’t hesitate.

It’s the same thing Jesus does for me every time He comes crashing into the midst of my messes. The same thing He does when the chains bind me tight and my borders bleed the wrong colors.

I don’t know why I stand there nervous every time, like I’m afraid the pattern will change just because I’ve done it for the thousandth time. Although I would be done with me by now, He never is.

He breaks the chains. He changes the colors.

My fingers hover over the button. I smile. I click.



You Have My Permission

It was the day I failed her. The day I ran out of words and didn’t know what to do. The day she reached out to me, and I brushed her off because I felt incapable of helping her. That was the day I left my tears on my steering wheel and walked into Bible study with my head held high. And wouldn’t you know that would also be the day our small group leader would single me out. The day he would remind my friends, “Rebekah’s not perfect. Rebekah has tears.”

I hated those tears and how they flowed in that moment. Hated that he had chosen this night to point out my weaknesses, as if he knew how badly I had wronged her.

That was the night we all became real. The night we apologized for not seeing when another was hurting because we were all too self-absorbed to notice that needs existed outside of our own. That’s the night my friend said to me what I should have said to my friend whom I had failed a mere hour before.

“I’m sorry,” he confessed. “I’m sorry.”

Then he told me why. Explained how I had always seemed so above him because he had a past I could never possibly understand. “And that’s ridiculous,” he said. “I should have known…”

And that was my permission… To be free. To be vulnerable. To show that I have weaknesses and prove that I have scars. To not be the strong one for once in my life.

There I sat among a group of my peers who were seeking the Lord together. Some of us had walked with God all our lives. Some of us had only recently found Him. Some of us were by all appearances “perfect,” while others had a past that would make you cringe. But not one of us was better than another. Not one of us had reason to be either proud or ashamed. Because not one of us was free of struggles, temptation, or trials.

We’ve all failed at one point or another. We’ve all found ourselves on our knees, begging for forgiveness.

So how is it that we forget that even our saints are struggling? How is it that we neglect to reach out to those among us who are hurting? And why is it that we hide the depths of our pain behind a thin veneer of perfection?

This is me apologizing for all the times you’ve been overlooked. All the times someone has seen you without ever stopping to imagine what heartache you may be experiencing.

And this is me giving you permission to be honest and vulnerable and free. Because I know what it is to fail, and I know what it is to fear that failure. But mostly, I know what it is to carry things alone.

You are surrounded by a community of believers who are waiting for permission to speak freely.

Give it to them.

Give it to yourself.

You have my permission.