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Dec. 28, 2016 — Extra Grace Required      

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So it’s that special twilight period of time between Christmas and New Year’s and this piece is almost certainly not for you. Much more likely, it is for someone you know!

That being said, have you ever noticed that at just about this time each year, amidst warm and convivial family gatherings, there might possibly be a friend or a relative upon whom just a smidgen of extra grace is required? Why is it that Auntie Flora can behave with perfect civility while Uncle George is a seasonal social wrecking ball? With reference to Uncle Georges everywhere, Zazu (from the Disney movie “The Lion King”) sums up the predicament well: “There's one in every family—two in mine, actually—and they always manage to ruin special occasions.” I recall a great aunt at our wedding who was so offended by the “perfectly dreadful dance music” that followed dinner that she hid among the guests’ coats and growled at the wedding party as they attempted to retrieve their belongings.

But perhaps there is another way to look at this. Is it possible that Auntie Flora’s warm and congenial temper is God’s gift to Auntie Flora and not Auntie Flora’s gift to God? Certainly, God knows all the circumstances of Uncle George’s life that have scraped and dinted his soul. To put it another way, God knows the incapacity of the “beaten-up car” that is Uncle George’s interior life in which he is attempting to make his way through world, including those ill-fated attempts to park responsibly at the dining room table. In comparison, Auntie Flora (whom God also loves) is driving a Tesla with parking assist.

C. S. Lewis concludes that we can never really know other people’s souls: “One soul in the whole of creation you do know: and that is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands.” In that sense, we are, each of us, alone before God. And fortunately for all of us who are an “Uncle George,” His “Love is patient…” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Lewis reminds us that God’s heart is not to patch the rusted car or even to turn Uncle George’s wreck of a vehicle into a Tesla. Instead, God’s desire is to turn each of us into an altogether different creature—one that can soar freely. Lewis adds, “…there may be a period, while the wings are just beginning to grow, when it cannot do so: and at this stage the lumps on the shoulders—no-one could tell by looking at them that they are going to be wings…