Grace and the unrepentant rapist

I know it’s probably not in good form to only blog once or twice a month then come out of nowhere with a post about what grace might look like in the case of the Stanford student who raped an unconscious woman, but it’s just been weighing on me all day.

It weighs on me for a numbers of reasons:

  1. The rapist does not acknowledge his crime of rape, rather is sorrowful that he got drunk and was “promiscuous.”
  2. The survivor of the assault’s statement shows how serious his action was. To say she has suffered would be to put it lightly (follow the link and read the statement).
  3. He got six months in jail and probation when a jury found him guilty on three counts of sexual assault. The judge was concerned that a harsher sentence would ruin his life.

The Stanford student doesn’t own up to the fact that he raped a woman.

And I can’t tell you how mad it makes me that in 2016 a judge is more concerned with the future of a kid who raped an unconscious woman while drunk than with the victim of the rape, in part because he was a star swimmer with a bright future.

In a case where justice should have been clear, where punishment should have been swift and heavy, where there should have been real remorse for his crime – he gets six months and does not apologize.

This is what the victim says about that, at the end of her statement:

“You do not get to shrug your shoulders and be confused anymore. You do not get to pretend that there were no red flags. You have been convicted of violating me, intentionally, forcibly, sexually, with malicious intent, and all you can admit to is consuming alcohol. Do not talk about the sad way your life was upturned because alcohol made you do bad things. Figure out how to take responsibility for your own conduct.”

I’m sure my rage pales in comparison to what she has felt over the past year. Really, it would be good for us all to read her letter. I think that to read her speak about what she experienced honors her courage to speak out, honors her voice in this situation where so many are voiceless.

This stupid question has been burning in the back of my mind today though, because I’ve been learning about grace in the past year and figuring out how to receive it and give it.

Oh, it’s such a stupid, dumb, irrelevant question! How do you show grace to an unrepentant rapist? You don’t, okay? You punish him hard.

I’m not asking because I’m gracious. I’m asking because I really need to know.

The question isn’t even how do you show grace to a repentant rapist, but instead one who won’t even say he did it.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.


He should have gotten a harsher sentence.

Oh, he really should have.

Grace doesn’t let us off easy. We do actually have to learn from our mistakes and grow from them. A long prison sentence might do that. I don’t know what else would.

Oh, but there’s Jesus. As cliché as it might seem, I just keep seeing Jesus on the cross, taking the sins of the world and saying, “Yep, for him, too.”

God isn’t the one who pats us on the back after we horrifically offend the dignity of another person. That isn’t the moment where he gently says, “Not like that. Try again.”

I’m grateful for those moments. But when I or anyone else dehumanize another person, God convicts us. He prods us and tells us what we did was wrong and that we need to make it right.

But he also opens a door and tells us there’s a way to live differently, not perfectly but walking alongside the One who loves so well that it rubs off on us and makes us more truly loving.

That’s grace, I think. It’s the smack that tells us we’ve got to stop what we’ve been doing and waits for us to sober up before it offers another way.

I am still so mad at that student. I’m mad at that judge. I’m mad that the justice system I live under produced such unjust results, so I’m praying through my teeth that he’ll know that what he did was wrong and that the weight of it will sink in.

And then that God will show him another way.

Grace with effects

I’ll just say it straight. I forgot to take a shift at work yesterday.

It doesn’t sound that bad when I say I forgot, but let me put it this way. I swapped shifts with someone (so important for me, and so kind of this co-worker to swap) and told my manager I’d just come in early and pull a double with the shift I was already scheduled for. 11:00 was the appointed time for the shift covering.

As I was driving to work at 1:50 for my 2:00 shift, I realized with horror that I should have been doing that four hours beforehand.

I walked into work with my horror.

“What’s wrong?” My friend, Tracy, the shift lead asked, obviously with some idea of what was wrong.

“I was supposed to be here at 11:00,” I said, my eyes still like the deer-in-the-headlights.

“Yep,” she said.

In my head, I was saying, “You aren’t very responsible. You are letting people down. You’ve got to get yourself together. What do you have going on that you can forget stuff like this? There’s no big crisis here. You should remember things.”

And Tracy just said, “Well, we’ll make up for lost time. I had Chrissy here, so we’ve been working on shipment. I thought about texting you, but I wasn’t sure if we’d cut the shift.”

It took me a good half hour to adjust my self-talk.

“You’ve never done this before. Well, other than that time Lisa wanted you to babysit so she could go see Jane Eyre at the Guthrie and you forgot but didn’t make other plans, so it worked out. You really are dependable. You just made a mistake. You’ll be more vigilant about scheduling from now on. You can just work extra hard to make the shift productive. You’ll have to own up to it though.”

I put off texting my manager for a couple hours, mostly because I was trying to stay on task and partly because I hate having to apologize for something for which I have no excuses.

I was just at home, planning and editing and doing laundry. There were no medical emergencies or illnesses. Just a memory lapse.

Everyone was so gracious about it. Tracy gave me a long list of things to get done, but she didn’t guilt me or make me feel like I’d failed miserably. She even tried to take partial responsibility.

When I finally texted my boss, saying how it would never happen again and I was so sorry but working hard to make up for lost time, she just responded, “That’s ok! Have a great night, thank you!”

She called a little later to make sure I knew that the closing associate was switching with someone else and to see that someone else had come in to sign her timecards.

“I’m so sorry about that. I don’t know how I forgot to come in.”

“That’s okay! It actually worked out better.”

Really, it would be great if I just came in when I was supposed to.

It was one of those days where I felt God using the people in my life to remind me what grace is. Grace doesn’t say that I haven’t done anything wrong, and I still know I have. Grace says that we can get past it. Grace tells me my mistake doesn’t define me, and it tells me to get back on the horse–or back behind the cashwrap.

God isn’t afraid to show me grace. He’s not afraid that I won’t know that what I did wasn’t good. And I’m not talking about skipping shifts here. I’m talking about thoughtless words, ignoring people who could use encouragement, choosing fear over trust, being lazy, being stingy.

God gives grace so that I can try again, not kicking me for failing but reminding me that I am capable of being obedient and faithful. And his grace to me isn’t without effect. At least, some days.

It’s much harder to receive grace than we think. Not just because we don’t deserve it.  On our “good” days, we find it hard to receive grace because we know we did wrong. On our less good days, it’s hard to receive grace because it pushes us back into action and asks us to humble ourselves and try again.

It’s much easier to back off from what we’ve failed to do or done poorly than to go back to it wholeheartedly.

So I’m planning to make it to all the rest of my shifts this week on time.

And to embrace the moments where I’ve acted less than faithfully as an opportunity to try again.

Fast watches.

If I’ve set a clock, you better believe it’s fast. My alarm clock, the analog clock on the wall of Liesel’s and my room, both of my watches, and probably the microwave clock because I got to it first after the last power outage–they’re all about four minutes fast.

It’s anxiety. I feel the need to always be places on time, and I do that best if I think it’s later than it is. Well, actually, that’s not totally true. Sometimes this tendency to have the clocks be fast means that I just arrive places even earlier than I should. I’m not usually late for things. I just set my clocks ahead to ensure that I’ll be on time, even if I thought I was running a couple minutes late.

It wouldn’t be such a bad thing if I didn’t start holding other people to this standard, too. I just caught myself looking at my watch. I was waiting for a student to show up to their writing conference. 9:15. Welp, they’re late. They weren’t late, both because the conference was supposed to start by 9:15, and there’s always a little grace that you can be a few minutes late. Also, it wasn’t 9:15 yet. It was 9:11.

I’ve been thinking about grace a lot lately, how showing grace to myself enables me to extend it to others, how the grace God has shown me sets a standard for how to show it to other people.

As in, I don’t expect people to be early to writing conferences, because no one can always live up to that. I don’t expect that everyone sets their watch ahead, partly because that’s not innately virtuous and partly because it’s not realistic for everyone to do that. Or practical.

As in, there’s a line between believing the best of people and expecting them to live up to perfection at all times. This isn’t about people meeting or not meeting my standards; it’s about seeing them as humans with a wide margin for how they will act, having broad expectations, a variety of ways that people can behave.

If they show up at all, that’s something. If they show up on time, what a nice surprise! Early? So nice. Not necessary, but nice. 

Does it sound like lowered standards? I hope not. Having grace for people means that I know they have a best behavior but that no one lives up to that consistently. I don’t. You don’t. I might think I’m doing you a favor by saying that you are perfect and never disappoint, but really, I’m setting you up for failure.

I’m not to the point where I can set my clocks to the actual time. I’m not even really to the point where I won’t berate myself for being late, especially in these days where I still don’t have a phone and can’t send an anxious apology text: I’m coming – sorry I’m late! But I might be on track to seeing you as a person who might be on time but might not, and just accepting you when you come.

How to cope with paying $26 for a veggie burger

Hello, there. I’m still here, living without my cell phone. We’re on day eight in the wild world of phonelessness. My major problem with it is that I can’t take pictures. My sister was in town this weekend, so she took all the pictures. But then she left, and this morning I made muffins and couldn’t share them on Instagram.


Joking aside, I was hoping the repair people would work at superhuman speed so I could take my phone to Alabama with me when I leave tomorrow, but that won’t be happening at this point.

Maybe it’s time to go off the grid completely so that technology can’t disappoint me anymore.

Speaking of disappointments, though, you’re probably wondering about that veggie burger.

Brooke was in town for a wedding this weekend.

View this post on Instagram

Saturday morning in Chicago with my sister! @tswiftstwin

A post shared by Brooke Furry (@brookeellen328) on

We tried to eat as many meals out as we could, since Chicago is the city of good eats. Her last day in the city I took her to Andersonville in search of burgers.

It was sunny, we walked around until we found a place we wanted to be. It was a little more expensive than we would have normally liked, but it’s a sister weekend. You splurge a little.

I’m usually the one with a slightly complicated order. I don’t try to be, but being a vegetarian, I often have to substitute things. Also, I don’t like mayo or mushrooms. Or bleu cheese. So here I was, ordering my veggie burger without the mayo, debating on the feta, and choosing the bun.

When I got my burger, I realized I’d forgotten a pretty key part of ordering a veggie burger. The veggie patty.

Oh, yeah, that. Like the only part that really mattered. I can eat mayo. I can handle a cheese that isn’t my favorite. But meat? Ugh.

Waiter comes back to check in on us.

“How’s everything?”

“I’m so sorry, but I forgot to order a veggie burger. That’s not a veggie burger.”

“No, it’s not.”

Takes plate, seems gracious with a hint of well-hidden annoyance (but you can’t fool me. I know when people are annoyed). I tried to be as gracious as possible about it. It didn’t matter that it took extra time. It was my fault.

I wonder if he’ll charge me for both, I thought. But that seemed a little bit cruel. I wasn’t getting two burgers. Surely people make mistakes like that. Surely it wasn’t going to drive down their profit margins ridiculously. Surely the customer could be right… even when she wasn’t.

The customer wasn’t right. I got my bill and saw two lovely, hefty charges on it. He just dropped it off without a word about the thing. Deep sigh. Slight feeling of being wronged. He should have probably offered to let me take the burger I was paying for but didn’t eat.

But I didn’t feel like I should make a big deal out of it. It was my fault. I’m learning what it means to be okay with things being my fault or failure. It doesn’t include a guilt trip on myself, and it doesn’t include berating someone else (or passive aggressively asking them to remove the charge because I didn’t eat that).

It means taking out your credit card and smiling at the waiter when he comes back, giving him the benefit of the doubt that he was for me instead of trying to deplete my bank account or raise his tip amount.

It means walking away without saying stupid, stupid, stupid to myself and swearing never to make a mistake ordering again. Let’s be honest. If I have as many years of life left as I anticipate having, I will do this again.

I made a costly mistake. I paid double for a veggie burger. (It was very good in case you’re wondering.) And I am moving on.

It’s not good to feel remorse over such a menial thing two days later. I have to learn to cope with these things, to show myself the grace that I should also offer to others. If I can’t tell myself graciously that everyone makes mistakes, and they aren’t always the cheapest (well, not on a college kid’s budget), then I won’t be able to pass that along.

I guess I’m just learning to spread the grace around.

Apart and a part.

I’m at that stage of life where I feel like I’m arranging a curio cabinet as I decide what I’m going to be, where I’m going to be it, with whom I’ll be it, and when I’ll start. Like if I spend enough time arranging it and making careful choices it’ll be just perfect and I can just merge my imperfect self right in.

Like I could really just filter out anything that I don’t want, anyone I don’t want. Maybe it’s my generation of entitlement speaking here, but the thought is that I’ve got the world on a string and might just be able to manufacture a perfect life.

Experience tells me this is not so. I also have been reminded that no job (however wonderful) is without flaws and frustrations. No friendship is without exasperation or hurt. No family is without their irritations or estrangements. No church is without their points of contention. (and I’m not just saying this to make you feel better if your communities aren’t perfect. Really, none are.)

The world we live in is far from perfect – like after God arranged it all just as it should be humanity shook it all up and decided to try to make a life in the mess.

So here’s what I’m dealing with now: do I live apart from my imperfect communities and experiences and people, or do I live as a part of it? (Don’t you just love these grammar nuances?)

Criticism comes to easily to me. It’s a gift when I’m editing a manuscript for someone who needs me to be ruthless and to question every decision they made. Because those who follow me will be just as critical. It’s not a gift when I can sit on my high horse (which you’ll remember I tried to sell last year) and point and shake my head.

This is painful to write.

It’s painful to admit that I see and shake my head when others could easily do the same to me.

But when you sit apart, you don’t fix anything. You don’t engage. You don’t learn or have opportunities to understand. You’re apart, which probably breeds stagnancy.

Here’s what got me started thinking about this again:

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 9.15.09 PM

When we sit apart, we miss seeing people’s needs and their brokenness that makes them act this way.

You’ve seen the news about Josh Duggar, right? That he was a porn addict which lead him to extramarital affairs and having an Ashley Madison account, all the while claiming to be a born-again Christian and advocating for families? Yeah, I saw that and thought: That man is the scum of the earth.

What he did is not defendable. There are no excuses for it. He made horrible choices that will have repercussions not only for him but for his wife (can you imagine the incredible pain she must be in?), his children, the rest of his family, and everyone who ever trusted him even a little bit.

But he did it because he is broken.

In desperate need of a Savior to say, Your sins are as scarlet (red, staining, bloody hands, have you ever noticed that ketchup and red wine are the hardest to get out of your clothing? Especially your white clothing?), but I will wash them white as snow (not the slushy stuff of the sides of the highways and parking lots but the freshly fallen snow). Jesus brings redemption into brokenness. Not even just cracked behavior, where the fissures don’t affect as many people. Josh Duggar is not beyond God’s saving grace.

This is the time for God’s people, holy and dearly loved by a Savior who scrubs our stains out every day, to press in and speak the truth of the Gospel that does not condone sin but acknowledges that humanity is powerless to save itself and needs to accept the grace of God.

Not just to Josh Duggar but to the people who have hurt us or who irritate us or who disagree with us, those whose lifestyles and choices and beliefs offend us, to the communities that don’t meed our needs but aren’t about us anyway, to the workplaces that stress and stretch, to the families that wear us thin sometimes.

And if we’re worried about people getting off scot free or feeling like they haven’t done wrong, we needn’t. Has anyone ever forgiven you for something you’ve done wrong? Like really wrong? Undeserved grace and life brings the deepest gratitude, and the process of sanctification that follows is anything but painless and smooth. (welcome to the bumpy ride)

Being a part will bring us deeper understanding of God’s grace and human hearts than we could ever have standing apart.

Waves and water.

I spent some time on the high seas today with Moby Dick, and I couldn’t help but want to be washed, to sit by the waves and watch them flood over my feet, the sand, the shore.

If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.

I want to sit by His ocean because the water always returns to the shore. The tide goes out but the waves still come. The sand might be dry right now, but just wait until 5:00 and wade deeper while you wait.

I want to be aware of how the water laps gently over my feet when I stand at the edge of His ocean, but when I get my surfboard, it’s all around me. When I dive in headfirst or feet first or whatever first, I’m drenched. It gets quiet, and all I’m aware of is how I’m wet and surrounded.

There’s an amazing quiet when you’re underwater. You can’t smell, can’t usually see much, can’t hear, and shouldn’t risk trying to taste anything. You just feel, feel the water all around.

You surface to breathe again, and the air feels different. It tastes salty, and you see the world differently. The water changes your perspective. I want to know that perspective, to swim deep and come up different every day. To only get out long enough to get dry, then plunge in deep again.

I want his waves to come higher and higher on those days that I’m reluctant to get in. I want them to break down the sandcastles I’ve built, the ones that stand between me and the water. I want it to wash the sand off of my feet and my legs, to know that feeling of pure cleanness that I lose immediately after stepping back into dry sand.

I want to swim every day, to drip on the people I meet, and pull them in to swim with me.

His grace, His love, His mercy is an ocean. And I am sinking without drowning, without a struggle. I sink and live.

Oh, the paradoxes of the Gospel.

Pressing tenderness.

Today I need to press out some words here on WordPress, like I’m squeezing them out of my toothpaste tube of a brain. There are just a few left, and we have to press on them to get them to show themselves.

Ah, victory.

I’ve heard that meat tastes better when it’s been tenderized. I don’t know this from personal experience since being a veggie-o-saurus keeps me from understanding that aspect of life, but I’ve heard. I’ve also seen a meat tenderizer, those sort of spiked hammer type things. And I think there’s some kind of machine that does it, too. Either way, it’s by beating the meat that it makes it tastes good, right?

I might be wrong about that. I didn’t do any research.

I was thinking about how tender God is with us today, and the immediate image that came to mind when I thought of tender was how people tenderize meat. Beating.

I don’t think God had to become tender in order to know that was the best way to relate to humans, but he’s certainly been beaten. Not just in Jesus’ whippings but every time someone says no or tells Him that they’re doing just fine on their own, thank you. It’s when He’s near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit, because we know that has some effect on the Savior, too. It’s every time we speak about Him casually, as though He isn’t there and listening. It’s when we push Him aside to give something else the throne in our hearts.

And His response is tenderness.

I find that rather amazing today.

Regular Sunday.

Man on the street yells at the three passing girls something unintelligible with an intense stare. Three passing girls half smile and keep walking. Other man with a McDonald’s coffee cup that may not contain coffee says, “All right. Pull over. Let’s see some ID,” but three passing girls aren’t driving and have no reason to oblige.

It’s a regular day in Chicago, walking home from church and encountering real people.

It’s a regular day, and I’m realizing again that Jesus didn’t die so that I could be a good person. The gap between me and God, created by me and my sinful nature and my inability to make myself whole, isn’t bridged by my strivings. If that’s the gospel I’m living, then I’m chasing the wind, and I’ll get tired.

I’ll get tired if the lamp I’m burning doesn’t have any oil. I’ll get frustrated if I think that I have to fix myself and fight to be good. Because, try as I might, I can’t fix myself, and the gospel doesn’t say, “For it is by your best attempt to live a holy life that you are saved, through works, so that you can boast about how hard you tried.”

I’m washed clean because I can’t wash myself. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. It’s a message of inability, seemingly not empowering. You can’t save yourself. You can’t be good enough. You can’t. You can’t. You can’t. All my good grades and nice smiles and kind words don’t make me whole. All these little things I do because I think I’m making up the difference between me, a sinner who is saved by grace, and God, who has never needed anyone to make Him look good.

I am a failure. And as long as I think I’m succeeding at cleaning up my life, I’m going to continue to fail. Because it is by grace that I have been saved. It is God’s work, His holy transformation inside of me that I get to watch and be a part of but not control so that I can’t boast about how hard I tried.

I sit in the passenger side, along for the mission but not the driver. And definitely not the engine. Just a humble companion that gets to help and be healed. I’m healed by letting go of my need to make myself acceptable and letting Jesus make me more than acceptable.

This is why I need to give up. Because I can’t, but He can. And He will. And He wants to.

Heat waves and Jesus.

Can anybody say, ‘heat wave?’ Then in the same breath, can you say, ‘sticky, sweaty, crabby, brainless, and whiny?’

That was the past couple days. Fortunately, it’s cooled off a bit today.

Last night, as I washed the grime and sweat off, I felt worn out. Man, heat really takes it out of you, I thought. It makes you feel crabby and lethargic and gross. I don’t think I acted like Jesus much today, but I was just so warm. I was so sweaty. It’s understandable.

Then it hit me.

Jesus totally understands hot weather. He lived in the Middle East. If there’s a chance He wouldn’t understand something, it’s probably the perpetual winter of the Midwest. Jesus was hot and sweaty and dusty, all day, every day. If not because the weather was hot and humid because He was walking around healing people and bringing the dead to life and preaching on hills.

That makes His kindness while He walked the earth even more outstanding. I don’t know if I just assumed that it was sunny with a high of 75 every day of Jesus’ ministry, but I’ve never thought about weather.

I could say that it motivates me to try harder to love people even when I’m hot and sticky, but it actually makes me want to throw up my hands. And I think that’s what Jesus wants me to do, to accept the reminder that I can’t live a life worthy of the calling I have received without Him. There’s always going to be something that affects me: tiredness, irritation, busyness, snow… you name it.

So I have to just throw up my hands. It’s not about trying harder. It’s about depending more fully.

Break blog

I’m on my lunch break at work, a much needed half hour off during a longer shift than I’m used to working.
Can we all just admit that sometimes it’s hard to offer grace to other people? Sometimes we just get in a funk where we want everyone else to cater to us, to be as gracious as they can be, but we aren’t willing to reciprocate. Sometimes we just want to keep to ourselves and be crabby. We want to out on our sullen, “don’t talk to me” faces and only do what we feel like doing.
But then I remember God’s grace. How cheesy it sounds to say that, but I remember that verse in 1 Corinthians, that “His grace to me was not without effect.” that His grace had changed my whole life. I’m living in the grace zone. And I prove how much I need grace by my ungraciousness.
His grace to me was not without effect, and when I’m willing, God will fill me with his grace to extend to others. When I’m willing to partner with Him, I can show people that God’s grace has an effect.
That’s what I need to remember as I head into the second half of this shift. I will be gracious because of his grace to me. Not because of anything I’ve done but because of his great love. This, dear friends, is amazing grace.