Eph 2:8-10 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast."
The Christian understanding of Grace is that it is unmerited mercy that God gave to us by sending his son to die on a cross to give us eternal salvation. Grace is God doing good for us that we have not earned or deserve.
While throwing beads from a float in a pre-Mardi Gras parade, I learned a lesson about grace. We have to buy the beads we throw and they aren't cheap when you consider how many you need for a 5 mile ride. I expected the crowd to be pleased and thankful for our efforts to make them happy when receiving the "gifts" we threw to them.
People were lined up several rows deep with their hands out yelling, "throw us beads or throw us cups or throw us a toy." Some just stood or sat and made no effort to catch anything we threw. Some were loaded with items around their necks and in bags, but grabbed at all they could catch, even stepping in front of elderly persons or children. Some showed their anger when we didn't give them what they were asking for. A few, but not many, impressed me when they said, "thank you."
This was supposed to be a happy, fun day. I was becoming angry at the selfish ingrates who were hanging on like leeches trying to get what they did not earn or deserve. I looked into the face of a woman about my age who was obviously either shy about grabbing for beads or was just enjoying watching the parade. She didn't have any beads around her neck. I purposefully threw her a string but a large man with several pounds of beads hanging around his neck jumped in front of her and grabbed the beads.
I was furious. I yelled at him, "Those beads are for her." I doubt he heard me because I had on a mask, but I'm sure my eyes and pointing finger gave him the message.
A few minutes later I was trying to throw to some children standing in the front of the crowd. A teenager reached in front of a little girl, but after a slight pause, gave the beads to her. Suddenly it hit me. This is like God's grace.
I thought about the times God was trying to answer my prayer and gave me something besides what I wanted and how I reacted to Him. I thought about the times I jumped in front of Him to get what I wanted when He was not responding quickly enough for me. I thought about the times I just stood there with my hands out begging and didn't realize He had already blessed me. I thought about the times I got angry with Him because someone else had gotten what I wanted. I thought about the times I failed to give Him thanks and praise for what He had given me.
All the time, he stays with me, regardless of my mood and continues on our journey together with loving patience, cheerfully blessing me with love and mercy and compassion. He also blesses me with wisdom and understanding in every day situations as he did in this revelation while I was begrudgingly throwing Mardi Gras beads from a float.
2 Cor 5:18-19 "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation."