A few months ago I saw a thought-provoking work of art called “Before I die I want to.” It’s an artistic bucket-list. As it was designed to, it made me rethink what is important to me. I wound up thinking about who I want to spend time with–not what I want to do–before I die. I wrote a blog about it you can read by clicking here. As art and an image conveying an idea, it stuck in my head and heart like a splinter. I’m glad for that.
But it also made me realize very little of what we accomplish in life provides a real, lasting feeling or knowledge of worth that so many of us long for. To paraphrase that old folk tune “My Bucket List’s Got a Hole in It.” We check off item after item after item after item endlessly adding new items hoping that the next one will fulfill. But still we just don’t feel right or good or worthy. Like puppets, we live with strings attached, pulling or being pulled by our desire to be loved unconditionally.
“I love you,” we say, hoping for a like response.
“I’ll help,” we offer, dying for someone to recognize how important we are.
“Look at what I did,” we shout like a child on a swing for the first time.
How different could our bucket-lists be if we knew we were loved, important, watched over by a God who does love us unconditionally, who loves us whether we deserve it, earn it, want it, or even love back?
In Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Misérables” Jean Valjean receives this kind of gift, a gift of grace. Caught stealing the Bishop’s silver and facing, once again, life in a tortuous prison, Jean Valjean is “dejected” and “overwhelmed.”
Then the Bishop gives him a second chance. “Well, but how is this? I gave you the candlesticks too, which are of silver like the rest, and for which you can certainly get two hundred francs.”
Thus freed Jean Valjean cannot believe, because he has done nothing to deserve this. Then the Bishop says, “Do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this money in becoming an honest man.”
Jean Valjean had made no such promise. But the truth that Hugo proclaims here is that when we receive unconditional love and grace it changes us. It frees us. Cuts the strings. And we must be different. We can be different!
Because of the Bishop’s grace, Jean Valjean is able to become a new person, start a new life, live under difficult circumstance, run a factory, adopt an orphan, and inspire heroism. That’s quite a bucket-list. What are you able to do because of God’s grace?
Imagine then, who each of us could be and what we each of us could do if we received and believed in God’s grace the way Jean Valjean receives and believes in the Bishop’s. It would matter not that the bucket’s got a hole because God has an endless supply. And maybe the hole is part of the point. We let God’s grace and love and forgiveness and eternity out our holes and into the lives of others while God fills us back up.
Oh, that is how I want to live.
So, inspired by “Before I die,” “Les Misérables,” and mostly by the grace of God I have received, I made “The Grace Board.” We set it up in church and wrote what all of us are now able to do because of the grace of God.
Now it’s your turn. In the comment section finish the sentence “Because of the grace of God, I am able to . . .”