Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine… Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. — Isaiah 43:1, 4 ESV
When I find out what a teenager’s done, I’d like to ring one slender neck. Dirt rings the mudroom sink like nasty vandalism.
To-do lists keep scrawling ugly, longer and longer. I can’t find my watch anywhere. The bathroom mirror is splattered and smudged. The weather forecast makes it impossible to know if we should plant our next field or wait until the next rain or what to do. We watch the sky for a sign. We pray, we pray these begging prayers.
I go a whole week watchless, not knowing what time it is. I can’t make sense of anything and this lump in my throat burns. A high school friend, one who knew the thick glasses and the crush on the Dutch farm boy and the blessed scent of the library stacks, she and I are an impossible twenty years older and we go for a walk.
I listen to her talk of career changes and photography and marriage maybe someday soon? She has all these questions of her own. I can only nod.
We’re walking down a side street in town when I stop. I stop and reach for my camera.
Rachel — she keeps talking about mortgage rates, about the Gospels and Jesus and speech pathology and the meaning of life, and her mind has always been this mushrooming wonder holding me rapt.
I aim the camera at the sidewalk. Fiddle for the shutter. The lens works to focus.
And Rachel stops midsentence. She reads the words chalked on asphalt out loud, words I’m focusing on. She reads them slow, like a decoding of everything.
“Hey beautiful, you are loved!” scrawled right there on the sidewalk, happy face chalked there grinning too.
“Oh.” She says it like an awakening. “And here I just thought it was graffiti.”
I nod in the middle of an epiphany.
The graffiti can be grace.
What seems a defacement may be a glimpse of His face. All the writing on the wall could be love notes.
I turn to Rachel, the camera, the capturing, still in hand, and the wind gusts, and I cheer it into the wind, into her — “Hey beautiful, you are loved!” And she laughs loud and we’re carried. Everything could make sense. And the real mystery of grace is that it always arrives in time. Like the wind, grace finds us wherever we are and won’t leave us however we were found.
I take another picture. So I’ll remember.
“This deciphers everything, doesn’t it?” I say it to myself, only half asking. The other half of me knowing with a certainty I’ve not felt before. Love always deciphers everything.
And the dialect of God is the day just as it comes — and whenever I slow down and shift perspective, it’s possible to read the impossible: the divine language of love written on all the walls. This smiling, startling alphabet of grace.
That’s what jolts me, right there on the sidewalk: Grace isn’t a mere Pollyanna feeling. It’s a force. It’s a powerful force. As startling as the power of electricity. Grace is the power of God pulsating with this passionate love of God, this jolting, blazing, dangerous love that pierces all of humanity’s pitch-black.
Grace always shocks. Grace always stuns. Grace is always what we need. It’s what everyone groping around lost in the dark has to know:
Turn toward grace and you turn on all the lights.
The whole black asphalt at our feet torches with the revelation.
And there is more than enough light to see it. How the day’s fresh mercies make even here clean enough. Clean enough for all these chalkings of His love.
Lord God, there will be walls I run into today, walls that seem to box me in, walls that have writing on them that I long to decode. When I rightly read Your Word, I can rightly read the world: the graffiti of this world is grace in Your hands.
Excerpted with permission from One Thousand Gifts Devotional by Ann Voskamp, copyright Ann Morton Voskamp.
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Hey, beautiful, you are loved! The glimpse of His face can be found everywhere if you have eyes to see. Look for God’s love message everywhere you go today… and come tell us where you found it! We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily
Announcing the One Thousand Gifts Online Bible Study
Join us this Thanksgiving season for a five-week journey with Ann Voskamp through One Thousand Gifts and let's starting counting the blessings, one by one...
As Ann reminds us,
God asks us to give thanks in everything — this is the way you live through anything. Especially 2020.
Because no matter the hard things we’re all facing right now, here’s what we know:
The counting of everyday gifts is the REALEST (proven) WAY to move our focus beyond burdens of life to the blessings of *now.*
There is always, always, always something to be thankful for! And because thanks is always possible — then Joy is ALWAYS possible... ~ Ann