It was July 4th and I found myself in a kayak.
Now, I haven’t been in a kayak in…well, years. Since it was the fourth of July, it seemed as though everyone who owned a boat in a 200 mile radius was on the very same lake. And as you can imagine, with all the boats kicking up waves around me, I had to work extra hard not to topple over, and give my friend yet another reason to laugh at me.
As I was figuring out the best method to stay inside the boat, I found that if I kept my paddle even; rapidly dipping one side to the right and then dipping it to the left, I would be able to keep going in the right direction. (I know this is probably basic kayak knowledge but it was revolutionary to me)
When a boat would pass me on the left, inevitably threatening to capsize my little kayak, I would put the left side of the paddle into the water to resist the wave and stabilize the kayak, so I could continue moving in the right direction. As a boat would pass on the right I would do the same thing on the right side, and so on…you get the picture.
As I was constantly shuffling between both sides of the paddle I was hit with how perfectly this scenario speaks of a much deeper and profound spiritual principle.
As Christians we talk a lot about grace and truth. And sometimes you find Christians who fall heavily on one side or the other of the “grace and truth spectrum.” One person may only see the value of God’s grace but forget to anchor it in truth, or someone else is all truth-minded without seeing the importance of grace.
But I discovered on that fateful day at the lake that BOTH sides of the paddle were absolutely necessary in keeping me above water, and inside the boat. If I only utilized one side I would inevitably fall over, get hit by a boat, or just go in circles (all of which would be really embarrassing).
The other thing I realized was that If I didn’t utilize my paddle properly I would cause someone else harm or just plain old embarrassment. Clearly, this was no longer just about me surviving to stay in the kayak, and avoiding embarrassment, it was also about the well-being and safety of those around me.
As a spiritual principle, it’s evident how important it is to understand the value of both grace and truth in our lives. And if we neglect it’s importance, we may unintentionally collide with another person, and potentially harm them in the process.
We could see my kayak experience like so:
- The paddle = grace and truth
- My hands = my will (volition)
- The waves = external circumstances (good and bad), internal thoughts and struggles, people in our lives, the past, present, or future.
Grace affords us access to higher ground–it connects us with the very heart of God. Grace creates capacity in us– to love the unlovable,strength to forgive the unforgivable, and go the extra mile.
Truth is a plumb line–it connects us with ultimate reality outside of our subjective world of personal opinion, preference, and perception. It helps us see clearly so we can live well. It affords us the ability to build a healthy self image, as well as healthy relationships with others.
But can you see how one must be connected to the other?
Truth may see what’s right and wrong, but only grace can create the capacity to make the needed change. How often do we know what’s wrong (truth) but find that we have no power (grace) to change?
Oh, and I can’t forget the most important item I had that day. A lifejacket.
Ultimately, if I toppled over and fell in that day, I was wearing that embarrassing, bright orange lifejacket that wouldn’t let me down. And although the analogy isn’t perfect, God can be seen as that lifejacket. He holds us, and ultimately protects us from ourselves, and our hangups, as well as being overtaken by our circumstances. (Deut 33:27a)
As life kicks up waves that threaten and challenge us, we can remember that we are not left without a divine strategy. God has given us the oars of grace and truth, and two hands–our will, with which to navigate our way through this crazy life.