By Steven Norris
Over the past year, life around our church office has been greatly enhanced by one of our youngest members. Our music minister’s daughter is certainly one of the cutest babies that I have ever seen. She instantly becomes the center of attention wherever she goes, relishing and delighting in just about anybody who will stop long enough to speak to her. She doesn’t seem to discriminate — young or old, male or female, beautiful or ugly — she takes great delight in all those who pause and divert their attention her way.
In her book, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, Kathleen Norris describes a similar scene that she witnessed in an airport. She notes, “I felt…awe-struck…because I realized that this is how God looks at us, staring into our faces in order to be delighted, to see the creature he made and called good, along with the rest of creation.”
Norris goes on to make an observation that I had never considered before about one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. Psalm 139 is a beautiful poem about deep and profound intimacy between Creator and creation. The psalmist asks, “Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” The rhetorical question is followed up with an implied, “Nowhere!” There is no place that we can go that God is not present.
Then, the psalmist says, “…even the darkness is not dark to you; the night as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Kathleen Norris asserts, “darkness is as nothing to God, who can look right through whatever evil we’ve done in our lives to the creature made in the divine image.”
This is the essence of grace — that God, in God’s wisdom, power, and insight, can see through the mess that I’ve made of my life and still perceive me as the one “knit together in my mother’s womb.” God can still see the one who was “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
This is why the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son is able to receive his son back so easily. This is why he is able to forgive and extend grace — because he can see through the mess and the darkness to the one who shares his flesh and blood. He forgives because he looks through the sin and sees his child.
Have you ever considered that God looks at you in much the same way? The grace of God does not wait for us to get our act cleaned up before we can be lovable. Darkness — whether the outward darkness of circumstance or the inner darkness of the soul — cannot prevent God from seeing us as well really are.
And like our music minister’s daughter, God is waiting for us to pause long enough from our hiding and our striving to achieve, belong, or be worthy of love so that we might allow God to delight in who we already are: beloved children of the Heavenly Father. This, my friends, is grace.