A few years ago, before there were grand kids, the Mrs. and I went to visit elder son and his wife in the big city. It was marvelous. We saw a show, went for walks, played with their dog, and just enjoyed one another's company.
We also went out for dinner on Saturday to eat sushi.
I love sushi, and there were no sushi places in the small town we were living in at the time. I'm not sure the stuff they sell at the mega-mart up the road can be rightfully called sushi, either...the way it lays there for days in the deli case. So it's a treat when we go to the big city and enjoy some of this wonderful stuff.
But I wasn't always so open to the idea. The first time I tried it (about thirty years ago now) was at the behest of a client. We were going out to dinner, and she got to pick the place, and it was a sushi bar. The reason I tried it was because...she was the client, and my job was to be supportive and pick up the tab.
Surprise, surprise...I loved it. So I tried it again. And again. And tried different forms and recipes. And I loved them, too. The more I ate it, the more I developed a taste for it and came to enjoy it. So when elder son said, "What would you like to eat for dinner?" I didn't even hesitate. When in the big city, get good sushi. That's the rule…both duty and delight.
So here's the theological tie. I think that most...check that, all...people respond (at least initially) to God's grace in the same way they respond to sushi...as a foreign substance that we're not really sure what to do with and, as interesting as it sounds, we're not sure that we really want. Oh yeah...unmitigated forgiveness and love seem like great ideas. But we've been raised with those old sayings about really appreciating what you work for and how there is no free lunch. And we figure that the same logic applies to God. So grace has to be some kind of divine come-on...God's loss leader to get you in the door. Later on...when you find out the real price...you'll have a stomach ache the size of a dragon roll.
Turns out, however, not to be the case. God is different from us (big surprise!). And God's ways of doing things are different, too. There are no hidden agendas, extra fees or gas pains to be burped up later. Life, love, mercy, and forgiveness are honest-to-goodness gifts that come with no strings attached...unless we in our sinfulness attach them. God simply wants to give these good things to us, and wants us to take him at His word.
When we finally do, we'll find out that grace is indeed pretty tasty stuff. And as we continue to sample it, we find that it enriches our living and our experience in ways we never dreamed possible. All we have to do is take the first bite.
If it helps to close your eyes and pray first, go right ahead. That's a good idea anyway. But really...you're going to love it. And you're going to want to come back for more. So grab your chopsticks. Pour out the soy sauce. Dip into the wasabi. And let thanks be to God.