As a child, I thought that grace was a sacred word that only belonged in conversations about God reaching down and saving a wretch like me. Like only my Heavenly Father could extend grace, and it applied solely to that moment when He welcomed me into His family.
I still think it's a sacred word, but I've come to understand the fullness of its application.
Since moving back from South America to South Carolina this past year, I have repeatedly asked for and been given grace during our immediate adjustment period. Sometimes I didn't quite know how to ask for it and just hoped people would understand and extend me grace without having to actually be told how badly I needed it. Most days, I wished I could wear a t-shirt that said, "WARNING: Missionary in re-entry. Stand back."
The Wal-Mart checkout gal and all those people behind me in line who wonder why I can't operate the debit card reader or figure out where to put my buggy.
The church people who reach out to shake my hand about the time I'm going in for cheek kisses, so we end in some awkward hug that sometimes results in accidentally kissing on the mouth.
Family members who want us all to pile in on Sunday dinners and holidays that last way past the tolerance level of my daughters, who now prefer large groups in small windows of time only.
Friends who hold their breath while I am trying to complete a sentence in English, even though the words won't come. Even better, friends who try to interpret my hand signals and grunts.
I silently or loudly plead for grace in these and so many more daily moments of chaos.
But it took me a bit to realize that as much as I need grace during this time, so do the folks who were here going through normal American life while I was off globetrotting.
They need me to understand that they don't understand.
I'm quick to notice my shortcomings and those of my immediate family, that are a result of culture shock, but I forget that these people around us don't know where we are coming from. They don't know what we've lived through beyond what they've read on our blog or gleaned from the newsletter or maybe, a few of them, seen in person for a few days at a time.
They don't know how different my gut reactions are from theirs now, how many of my thoughts come to me in another language, and what I am very used to doing as everyday activities.
They don't know that I'm a totally different person than when I left in 2008.
When they have expectations of me that I can't meet, when they just don't get it, when they assume things that are way off base, I have to be able to recognize how little they actually know of what I've lived, and then extend them the same grace I expect to receive.
Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full--pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. Luke 6:38 NLT