It became a practice for me earlier this year – writing a word or phrase from my morning prayer onto my left wrist, right above my watchband. I notice it during the day as my fingers type out plans to be made. I notice it during the moments when I check for the time, only to realize how quickly it has passed. I notice it during the moments when I wring my hands on behalf of all that I do not understand and all that I cannot fix.
It comes with the simple yearning: Etch into me something permanent. Write upon me a Word that soaks into my soul and brands my bones.
Lately, the word that has been there is this: Grace. Written in red ink each morning (a color in my journals that signals for me the Christ who embodies it), Grace reminds me what I fail to remember during the difficult hours.
Grace is not a shaming technique to recognize how little you deserve God’s love. Grace is love that cannot be earned because it already is. Grace dismantles any system of holy achievement. Grace changes the conversation because it removes the possibility of Love being ever lost or in jeopardy. Grace removes God’s Love from ever getting near the negotiation table. Grace is never up for decision. Grace does not even depend upon my response.
Grace is God’s Love as a given – before I can ever even think about earning it or worry about losing it. Grace etches permanently upon me a Love that is unchangeable, irrevocable, and eternal.
So with Grace etched on my wrist, I let it guide my days…
… On Sunday mornings before the Body of Christ gathers, I peek into the sanctuary and I linger in my glance at the Fellowship Hall and I remember: Grace.
… As children run around with attention diverted from the tasks of that moment: Grace.
… When illness interrupts and changes our plans: Grace.
… Listening to the news and wondering how I can cling to faith in fellow humanity: Grace.
… Learning how the ocean is warming and this earth is fragile: Grace.
… Beyond my comprehension, cemented in the covenant between God and humanity: Grace.
“What teachings you etch on the life of a child,
His future will shape and mold;
Though facts be forgotten and stories erased,
Heart etchings surely will hold.
If on this young life you indifferently write,
Indifference he’s apt to learn;
If careless to truth and the virtues thereof,
then truth he likely will spurn.
Some words that you speak will be lost on the way,
Others, because he forgot;
But the truth you write through example to him,
Time surely changes it not.
The tablet you use is a young heart, you know;
Write then with love and care.
What teachings you etch on the life of a child
Will certainly linger there.”
~ The Teachings You Etch, The Potter and Clay, by Muriel Blackwell
This gray Friday morning, this is my prayer to the Holy One whose nature is Grace: Before I consider etching anything into the heart of another, etch Grace on mine. Move the Word from my wrist to my eyes to my heart, and then back out again.
In so doing, remind me of all that I do not know. Remind me that I do not know what the future holds. Most importantly, remind me that people in my life do not need conclusions from me as much as they need a relationship with a person who has Grace etched upon the heart.
Grant me the courage to cherish Grace – to hold closely the non-negotiable love of God and hold loosely to everything else.
Then, as one with an etched heart, I live confident that that which is permanent can transform all that is temporary.
Bread becomes sustenance for the soul.
Conversations with loved ones offer the voice of God.
Interaction with those in need becomes an encounter with Jesus himself.
Jesus, Great Teacher – Grace is who you are. Grace is etched upon Your heart. Heart etchings surely hold. Time surely changes it not. As I follow You, may it be so with me.