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Silent Statues in a Graceless Garden

By Thom Hunter – Signs of a Struggle

If I was still climbing, you'd steady the ladder.


If I were in pain, you'd ask what was the matter.
So why all the silence when you saw me falling?
Why turn away slowly when you hear me calling?

If grace flows so freely, then why are we silent?


If God says to give it, then why so defiant?
If grace we've been given so we keep on livin'
Then why so be so graceless to the other forgiven?

Is my sin so mighty and I'm so to blame?


While yours is so silly it's not worth the shame?
Is that what grace does, covers sins just so small,
That we wouldn't really need grace that much at all?

I truly don't think so; I think we're all wrong


If our grace is for some and not for the throng.
So why are you silent, when ladders are falling,
Reducing to whispers the cries of the calling?

'Tis grace helps the fallen to rise to his feet,


While the lack of grace lowers him down to defeat.
God's grace, we all know, is abundant and free
To choose who receives it is not up to me.

-- Thom Hunter

Human Beings, like plants, grow in the soil of acceptance, not in the atmosphere of
rejection -- John Powell.

One of the benefits of living in apartments and duplexes most of my growing-up


years was that yard-work was pretty much someone else's problem. Still, we
occasionally lived in homes with fairly good-sized yards, and, being a boy, I was
expected to mow. It helped that I had an older brother who was the first on-call,
though he was too soon gone, his motorcycle affording a means of escape from
anything that did not appeal to him, like lawn-mowing. I have to admit, my memories
are more of my mother putting her full weight behind the push mower, which was
always choking on the too-tall weeds that tended to mark our yards, but I did do my
share.

To me, the mower was power. I would survey the yard with all the Bermuda grass
"antennas" sticking up jaggedly and envision them as TV antennas over the
thousands of homes that populated the yard, living rooms filled with lazy, hapless
viewers . . . and then I would put myself into a spirit of annihilation and let the
destruction roar and roll. "You're next," I would say to a plot of green-ville and would
even, every now and then, decide who was living in the "house" I was about to
shred.

I was indiscriminate. If you were between the porch and the curb, your house and all
within was going down. How dare you get out of control in my yard? Nothing short
of perfect 3/4" submission would be accepted. Grasshoppers and doodle-bugs that
didn't flee surrendered the right to be.

I would not have made a very good God. I was into whirling blades, not unlimited
grace. Yes, I know it was just a yard and it all grew back with vengeance, but in my
metaphor-making machinations, I was a cruel master.

And then life continues on and the mower becomes the mowed and wonders
"where's the grace" of which we all so boast? Can Christians be known for our love
and, at the same time, recognized for our lack of grace?

A few weeks ago, with company on the way and a garden that had been graced with
Oklahoma's extreme weather -- 106 degree days followed by six-inch rains -- I found
myself on my knees furiously pulling two-feet-high weeds from around hidden vines
of cantaloupe and cucumber, their fruit mis-colored and mis-shaped by the absence
of sun under the crowded shadow of choking weeds. My grown-up mind reflected on
my boyhood of the antenna-crunching of the innocent, but I had adapted to the
passage of years and the gain of life's experience to a better metaphor.

"You're next," I would say to a clump of weeds as my gloved hand reached down to
the base just above the roots. Only this time, I found myself ripping judgment from
the ground, plucking harshness, dislodging rejection, culling out complacency,
digging up haughty arrogance, pulling prideful finger-pointing. I would pause and
look around and realize the never-endingness, the impossible task of getting every
weed, and when I viewed it as a landscape, it seemed impossible indeed. But when
I focused on just the weeds before me, each came up and eventually the so-craved-
sun found the distorted fruits of the hidden vines and shined like grace to say it's
your time again to grow.

I know what grows in the garden in the absence of grace. It is bitterness, the mis-
shaped fruit of those gasping for grace, thirsting for forgiveness, reaching for
restoration, but hidden beneath the weeds of rejection and crowded out by the jungle
of judgment. Grace tends the garden so the root-bound can grow again.

Withholding grace from those who sin and repent. . . is a sin. Like the weeds that
came into the Garden with the original fall, the weeds of withheld grace take root in
the spring, take over the summer and become the harvest of autumn.

A man or woman who struggles with a habitual or addictive sin -- such as acting out
on same-sex attraction, heterosexual or homosexual lust, viewing pornography,
committing adultery -- learns that these particular sins are deemed by many
Christians as too slippery for the grip of grace. Maybe the deeming is not official, but
more an expression of Christian-correctness, as much as culture's approval of
almost everything is deemed political-correctness. As Christians, many of us just
can't handle the reality of sexual sin. Steal my bread and I'll forgive you and work
out the repentance of repayment. Slip into sexual sin and I'll . . . forgive you perhaps
. . . but regard your repentance as an exercise of repetitive futility. Once a pervert
forever a pervert.

Okay . . . I said, "many Christians." I have found that the vast ocean of Christianity is
populated with fertile islands of the forgiving who cultivate grace and hope and
believe in mercy and kindness. Their lighthouses are welcome beacons to the
wrecked vessels being tossed about on the seas of rejection. Grace heals and
rebuilds and makes the sinful once again seaworthy.

Interestingly, these islands of grace are more often than not populated with those
who have received grace themselves in abundance, people who themselves fell and
looked up to find a hand extended, offering grace. Come to think of it, that should be
all of us.

After years of struggling and falling and finding fewer hands extended, I understand
the great pressure placed on those who offer grace "once again." As if it is in limited
supply, there is a tendency to hold it back for someone more worthy. But . . .
then . . . it becomes not grace at all. For no one ever will be worthy. No one
deserving.

Those of us who have been shown grace by those we hurt, should be the most
generous purveyors of grace. We have been given much and from us much should
be expected. We even must find a way to extend grace to the ones who reject us
and consider us worthless, because just as in the absence of grace, the weeds of
bitterness grow in its hoarding. So, give.

Not lazy, hazy, spacey grace, but clear, powerful, unrelenting, unchallenged, full and
. . . unmerited . . . grace. Stun the devil with clarity.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you
know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of
sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ,
after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong,
firm and steadfast -- 1 Peter 5:8-10.

The God of all . . . grace.

The withholding of grace to each other is the height of selfishness, to keep


something which is unlimited away from someone who is in need. To look at
ourselves and fear the embarrassment that the person we pick up may fall again and
leave us with some proverbial egg on our faces. To stand back, pretending
patience, when what we are really doing is passing judgment and piling on with piety.
If we keep grace in a precious box because we have decided that the person to
whom we should give it will just squander it and return to sin again, we are assuming
the worst of both the sinner and of God. How can we in our own limitations
determine when the sinner will drop the idol and claim the grace?

To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But You brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God. "When my life was ebbing
away, I remembered You, LORD, and my prayer rose to You, to Your holy
temple. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I,
with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to You. What I have vowed I will make
good. Salvation comes from the Lord." – Jonah 2:6-9

Are you up to the challenge of giving grace and letting God deal with the graced and
his or her sin?

Giving grace is an act of courage.


Giving grace is an act of the will.
Giving grace is an act of fearlessness.
Giving grace is an act of selflessness.
Giving grace is an act of trust.
Giving grace is an act of love.
Giving grace is an acknowledgement of the grace we ourselves have been given.

If we are but cold silent statues in a graceless garden, we have forfeited the tending
to others. Blinded by our own coldness, we cannot even see what grows, we cannot
turn and reach, but are frozen in our selves. Nor do we care; we are there for others
to see, immobilized on our granite pedestals.

Step down. Pull some weeds. Bring grace like rain to the thirsty vines.

(If you would like to follow the on-line writing of “The Weight of Who I Am,” my
autobiography focusing on overcoming the sexual brokenness resulting from child
abandonment and early sexual abuse, please follow this link to find the five chapters
written so far: http://thom-signsofastruggle.blogspot.com/)