Etched deeper and hazier than the patterns of a face, they sit in the cracks and crevices. Unseen, perhaps, but not unfelt. Carved into the lines of a smile and the arms of a familiar hug, they are given, taken, weaved in and out of the pockets of the day.
Rich as the first taste of an orange’s juices that so revitalize the weary palate in winter, they are full, robust, expanding and contracting to sweeten the amount of space they are given.
They die not with a body but, after breathing the last into the gates of heaven, inhale softly and roll up their sleeves, preparing again for the work of kneading souls.
Theirs is not a job that can be measured or quantified. For these are the circles and lines of grace.
I feel them, most, on the beach in the sun. When my body is warmed to the inside by an outside force, and all I must do is receive it. By the fire in a ski lodge where I sit with my sisters, thawing out so we drip down water and laughter. In a church, when my brother plays his cello, and the notes dance across the room powerfully enough to stamp on souls. Around dinner table, when the candles burn low and we all feel content; when the threads of conversation are interrupted only by the occasional, well earned yawn of a full and glorious day.
C.S. Lewis once said that meaning can be found in every place. That, once we have accepted an omniscient and providential God, the line between “significant and fortuitous” becomes blurred. If, for example, a person sees a rainbow and views it as a sign of hope, we cannot say that God, all knowing and all powerful, created that rainbow in the sky without knowing also what that person’s reaction would be to it. So then, if we believe in God, we also understand that there is not a corner, not a layer, not a shred of life that is without meaning or some kind of significance.
Lines of grace. Signs from a God who is large enough to be over all but also in every detail.
This is a concept I have long struggled with. How could God, I wonder, care about the ins and out of my days? How can he care about my moods, my to-do lists, my conversations, some of which are boring even to me? How can the warmth of the sun and the music of my brother also be demonstrative of his love for his people?
In this same universe, mingling with the lines of grace are the strands of doubt. They are numbing, so that even as we live and breath and our eyes blink up and down, we cease to think of ourselves as miracles. They cloud the clearest vision, brining into focus the material world that shines, so that we are so distracted by things we think pretty we can ignore the beauty of the created one.
Strands of doubt that wrap around us when we’re hurting, that call us to cry out in the night and behind the windshields of our cars Where are you God? Strands that whisper to us give up you fool, there is no one to hear you and no one to help.
Strands that comfort us with lies and distractions. That cause us to spend hours walking through the aisles of Target, because at least that building is contained and that’s more than we can say for our lives right now. These strands cause us to laugh, scoff, even at the thought of a created world, a Creative God, a new heaven and new earth to come. Here, have another biscuit, they say soothingly, and enough of that nonsense.
Strands of doubt that work, day and night to separate us from the God outside all time and space. That work hard to convince us of our sin, of our unworthiness, that if there is a God out there, he is angry with us and always will be.
When disaster strikes, these strands work to rouse our anger. This God, they hiss, he did this to you. He’s out to get you, don’t you see? He doesn’t see you. He doesn’t love you, he doesn’t care for you. It’s every man for himself. And as our panic and grief wakes us in the night, they come forth bearing gifts of computers and books— anything to keep us from thinking about God, life, death, and eternity, because if we keep thinking we might see these strands for what they are.
But if God truly is omniscient, if he truly is good and loving, and if he truly did love us enough to send his son in our place, then surely his presence can be seen. Surely, a God this big would not require faith without reason, would not send us on a wild goose hunt for him without anything at the end.
And then surely, if I look even into the darkest corners of my life, I can find Him there. I can find a line of grace.
Grace, historically, shines brighter than doubt. Its still, clear voice, penetrates the noises of doubt, in the lion’s den, in the fiery furnace, in walls of a prison, in the modern office space. It pierces through the torture, the unknowing, the fear with a steady, powerful I Am. These lines make for strong nets, and I don’t think they’re in the habit of letting us go, ensnared though we are by the doubt with the loud voice.
It’s these lines of grace that today, in my car, cause me to look back on some of the darkest times in my life: the questions, the panic, the night terrors, and to say, into the air that Jesus you were there. You were there and you held me. And when I cried out into the darkness begging for this to be real, desperately wishing for something of what I’ve given my life to to be true, you were there. And even though I couldn’t feel you then I know now it’s because you needed me to keep asking, to keep digging. That my heart needed to keep breaking because that was the only way I would keep searching. But through it all, you were there.
Lines of grace. Stronger and fiercer than any lines of doubt. Found in the wrinkles of a palm, in a listening ear, in the twinkle of an eye. Found in between lines of Scripture, full, complete promises that will have victory. In every sunrise his mercies are new, with every rainfall he waters thirsty ground.
Wherever you are today, whatever strands of doubt are trying to pull you under and speak lies and distractions, I pray that you will see the lines of grace, holding you all this time. I pray that in every smile, laugh, snowflake and spider, you will know that every good gift is from Him. That the God of every age and every nation also knows the dimple on your cheek and the hurt inside your heart, and he is over it all.
That instead of giving into the doubt that entangles, we will cling to these circles and lines of grace.