The Most Important Thing in the World

I wrote this poem about the most important thing in the world:

“It is hard to explain, but you know it when you see it.
It is meek, but you can’t contain it

Hard to grasp, but you know when it’s around.
It is hard to teach, but it can be found.

Exceedingly quiet, while deafening loud.
It is extraordinarily humble, yet aptly proud.

Thieves want to own it, but it cannot be stolen.
Many are for the strong, It is for the broken.

No one’s ever dreamed it.
No one’s ever owned it.
No one’s ever bought it.
You just get it when you receive it.

No politics can claim it.
No business can sell it.
No celebrity can wear it.
The poor and outcast possess it.

It is private, yet transforms communities.
Largely diverse, yet brings unity.

It is unfair, yet purely just.
More powerful than our strongest lusts.

Often emulated, yet falling short.
Eye for an eye, it is karmas retort

Always talked about, yet seldom shown.
It is something you must experience to be known.

It is not so much a destination, than an eternal trip
You can’t get by trying, you just open the gift.

It is multi-faceted, never looking the same.
It is the one thing that will never change.”

This poem is about Grace.
Grace is a scandalous thing.
It will get you kicked out of your religion
It has gotten quite a few people killed.
Yet, Grace is the only hope for you, me and our world.

I am hesitant to try to explain Grace in a simple sentence or catch phrase.

Grace is better caught than taught.

When Bill Hybels said, “You have never looked in the eyes of a person Jesus didn’t die for”, that is a picture of Grace.

When the Apostle Paul said, “We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s standards, but the free gift of salvation is given to us through Jesus, His Son, through the work on the cross”, that is a picture of Grace.

When we forgive our enemy, serve the poor, fight injustice, love someone who is different than us ethically, politically, or spiritually, that is a picture of Grace.

Mercy is God NOT giving us what we deserve.
Grace is God GIVING us what we don’t deserve.

Grace offers forgiveness, eternity, power to forgive, endurance, joy, peace, and a lot of other things we could never have or do on our own.

Grace is a gift and is the only thing that can heal this tired, old world.

I think the most important thing the church should focus on is showing God’s Grace in practical, life-giving ways.

The one thing the church has to offer that no other organization can offer is Grace.

Yet, if you were to ask the average person on the street what word would they use to describe the church, do you think “Grace” would be on the first page of the list.

Programs, religion, judging, theology, hypocrisy, political, rules and rituals might top the list.
In my “unscientific” poll, Grace has rarely appeared.

Look around and see how we’re doing outside of Grace?

Why can’t Israel and Palestine find peace?

Why do we even have words and terms in our vocabulary like ethnic cleansing?

Why didn’t Bob Jones University, which is a Christian university, allow African-American students to enroll until 1975?

Why in 2010 did a white pastor from Mississippi get fired from his church by adopting two children who were African American? Because his white elder board said so!

When Ghandi was a young man practicing law in South Africa, he had become attracted to the teachings of Jesus and so decided to attend a church service.
As he came up the steps of the large church, a white South African elder barred his way at the door and said with a belligerent voice, “Where do you think you are going, kaffir(a racist term)?”
Ghandi replied, “I’d like to attend worship here.”
The elder snarled at him, “There’s no room for kaffirs in this church. Get out of here or I’ll have my assistants throw you down the steps.”
From that moment, Ghandi said he decided to adopt what good he found in Christianity, but would never again consider becoming a Christian if it meant being part of the church.

Once, when the missionary E. Stanley Jones met with Ghandi he asked, “Mr. Ghandi, though you often quote the words of Christ, you seem adamant against becoming his follower?”
Ghandi replied, “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

The church should not have the same reputation, if not worse than the world!

Take a look across your life right now. Where is Grace missing?

When was the last time you prayed for a militant Muslim to find Christ?

When was the last time you prayed for someone on the other side of the political isle to be blessed?

When was the last time you prayed for your enemy?

That is a picture of Grace.

Let me finish with another picture of Grace.

I was in San Antonio, Texas. I was at a restaurant near the hotel I was staying at, and I began talking to my server, whose name was Niesha, who was a very nice, outgoing young lady who was genuinely interested about why I was in San Antonio.

She reinforced the theme that since I had arrived in town
people from San Antonio seemed extremely friendly.

Being from California, I was not used to this kind of genuine hospitality.
In California, when someone is nice to you, there is usually an alternative motive.
But in San Antonio, it seemed like everyone was genuinely kind and gracious.

I told Niesha that I was pleasantly surprised how everyone was so kind to one another in San Antonio, herself included.

I asked her how long she had lived there.
She said she had only lived in San Antonio for 6 months.

She had lived in Mobile, Alabama her whole life but her home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and she had escaped, safely, with her only son while pregnant with the second.

As a single mom, she had no where to go, but she had some family in San Antonio, and so here she was. She could not take credit for being a kind resident of San Antonio.

I asked her, “Are you going to go back to Mobile eventually?”
She said, “Probably not.. It was time for a new start.”

Niesha then told me her story.
She had grown up in Mobile, Alabama.
As an African American woman in the south, she didn’t grow up with a lot of dreams. There was no one telling her to do great things, to better herself.

But she did have a dream.
Her whole childhood, she was drawn toward deaf people and wanting to help them communicate.

She did what no one encouraged her to do.
She went to college.
When she was a few credits away from getting her degree in sign language she got pregnant.
The stereotyping and judging began.

People close to her told her to get practical and quit going after these silly dreams. She lowered herself to the view of the people around her.

She quit school and worked as a waitress thinking, “It was silly to dream. It is my own fault. I deserve this. This is my life.”

After giving birth to a precious healthy son, she got pregnant again.
Still single, it just reinforced the image people around her had.

Here’s the picture:
A single, African American mom, in the south, pregnant again, with her dream of teaching the deaf over.
Her life was in survival mode.
Then came Hurricane Katrina.
She lost it all. Her material possessions. Her home. Her shelter.
The only thing she had was her son, the clothes on her back and the baby in her belly.
She arrived in San Antonio, Texas to continue her plight.
She gave birth to her second son, got a job at a restaurant, and a few months later, I’m sitting talking to her, listening to her story.

As I was sitting there, I had a thought.

For most of her whole life, no one had ever told her to dream. No one had ever told her how smart she was.
No one ever applauded her desire to serve the deaf.
No one ever celebrated her hard work.
No one had ever bestowed Grace on her.
She had been judged, used, ignored and forgotten.

I thought, this is no accidental meeting.
I thought of the words of Proverbs 31:8 “We must be a voice for the people who have no voice.”
That is another picture of what Grace looks like.

Niesha had no voice. And the voices around her were all negative.

I told her, “I don’t think your dream is over, in fact, I think your dream has new life. Sometimes it takes a hurricane in our life to get us back on track. This time the hurricane was literal. You were stuck in Mobile with all the stereotyping and negative voices telling you to aim low, but you have been relocated to a new place of hope. A place of renewal. A place where you can get back on track for your dream. A place of Grace. It is no coincidence that we have met, and I want to tell you, not in a mystical way, or prideful way, but in a very humble way, God has put us together so you can hear a voice of hope. YOUR DREAM IS NOT OVER.”

As I was sharing, tears began to run down her face, and then she quickly turned and ran to the back.
I wasn’t sure what to think.

When she came back, there were still remnants of her tears, but she had a huge smile on her face, she sat down at my table and said, “I told my manager I was on break, and he said OK, so let’s talk some more.”

We talked about Grace, second chances, being created in God’s image, Jesus’ love, the plans He has for us, and how she has to finish her degree and that I was going to hold her accountable.

By the end of that conversation she was so fired up. She had gone from hopelessness to a renewed dream.

Niesha graduated with her degree.
Surprisingly, she is working with the deaf back in her hometown of Mobile, Alabama, where she is a setting a new example for young people to aim high and dream big.

Niesha is also offering Grace to deaf students who too often are judged, marginalized and ignored in our world.

Niesha is another picture of Grace.

It is a scandalous thing.
It will get you kicked out of your religion
It has gotten quite a few people killed.
Yet, Grace is the only hope for you, me and our world.