A snowshoe hare lives under our front steps. I can’t say that for sure, but the tracks in the snow below the window come and go. And there is poop.
Here at the hinge of the year, this annual time of stocktaking and fresh resolve, I’d like to offer up three ways to notice another set of tracks. These are tracks of the grace of God, left by the God of grace. Can you see them in the story that was 2014? I assure you, they will be there in 2015.
Grace leaves tracks. Paul writes, “[God’s] grace to me was not without effect” (1 Cor. 15:10). Dr. Malan Nel observes that when we experience grace, we grow in three ways. Those ways might be “tracks” of God who is “at work in all things for our good” (Rom. 8).
The first “track” to look for is openness. Some are suspicious of openness. They fear a mind that is “so open that our brains fall out.” The openness I’m talking about, though, is the courage to be open with each other about our stories, the way Paul was as he continually testified to his old life and to the devastating experience of meeting Jesus Christ on the road in Syria. Our own openness might be the courage to wonder out loud if all our wealth delivers life or if it leaves us wanting and lonely.
The second “track” is creativity. It is the mark of every fundamentalist position to make people and communities more and more alike. This is as true of free market capitalism as it is of socialism, or of different religions or denominations within a religion. The grace of God from the God of grace brings freedom for fresh responses to life. Because grace is unafraid of the other, it values and makes room for more voices and so for creativity.
The third “track” is discernment. Discernment is the trait we need in order to know what is “a hill to die on” and what is not. Discernment is the understanding that there is a time to speak and a time to be silent, a time to reach out and a time to allow others to struggle until they find their own strength. Above all, it is the insight that the most true thing about each of us is that we are deeply loved by God.
The acronym for these three “tracks” is “OCD.” As one who has experience in thinking and behaving obsessively and with compulsion, I find a happy irony in using “OCD” to signify openness, creativity, and discernment. It’s helped me to pay attention to the places where Jesus is at work in me and in the people around me, and it encourages me to follow him there—to, as Paul says, “work out my salvation.” Sometimes there is poop along the way. There is just no getting around that.
May you have the grace to see the tracks of God’s grace. And may you have the courage to follow.