A couple years ago while practicing Centering Prayer I had this image of what it meant to receive grace.
The image went something like this: I come to hotel check-in with my heavy backpack and my arms full of things that represent all the worries, unresolved feelings, and burdens that I choose to travel with. And the person at the check-in counter offers to hold them for me, and because I’m rather afraid to part with them, he or she takes each one carefully from me, one by one, and places them neatly behind the counter, on the shelves.
But as for my sins, she or he takes them and slides them with one swift movement off the dark wood counter and straight into the garbage. And I’m left there standing with nothing in my outstretched arms, utterly burdenless and sinless, when only a moment ago I could feel the weight of those things digging into arms and my shoulders.
Last night as I prayed in silence, I breathed out the word “release,” and breathing in, I repeated the word “receive.” And this simple image returned again, as Christ does daily, and especially during this busy season, with his gift of grace, and his invitation to receive it.
I like this image, because it shows that it’s not that the cares of our life are unimportant, but it’s just that often they are a complete distraction from the attitude of reception we need to cultivate in order to live by grace. I mean when grace becomes just one more thing to pile into our arms this season, we know we’ve lost sight of what it means to receive, and it’s time to release our burdens and our sins to a God who is actually begging for us to lay them down.
I’m still in awe of that feeling of standing in front of the counter, freed by God’s grace.