Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Up Close to Greatness January 15, 2013

Filed under: Real Life — Stephanie Rische @ 4:57 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

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Thanks to a generous friend and a friend-of-a-friend who has season tickets to the Bulls games, Daniel and I were the recipients of an experience we never would have splurged on ourselves: eighth-row seats to a real-live NBA game.

 

I’ll never forget the moment the players stepped onto the court to warm up. I sucked in my breath as they walked toward us. “They’re not this tall on TV!” I kept whispering to Daniel. I’m sure it got old after I repeated myself for the eighth time, but I couldn’t get over how goliath they were in close proximity. “I think I come up to the waistband on number 13’s shorts!”

 

I’ve been a basketball fan for years, but being at a game in person—and in row 8, no less—was like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time after years of merely looking at photographs. Everything was bigger, faster, louder without a screen separating us. I could hear Nate Robinson announcing the plays, I could see the look in Luol Deng’s face when he was calling for the ball, I could hear the players’ yammerings with the refs, I could see just how fast Taj Gibson moved his feet to deke his defender.

 

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Shoot, we were so close I could practically smell the players’ sweat.

 

At halftime I found myself considering how much easier it is to take in a game secondhand. You don’t have to fight the traffic, you don’t have to find parking, you don’t have to fork over any hard-earned cash. You just turn on your TV and watch the game from the comfort of your couch. But that ease comes at a price—you also lose the grandness of the firsthand experience.

 

I wonder how often I try to take the shortcut in other areas of my life too. It’s more effort, more time to get together with a friend, so I take the easy route and send a message or post a quick note on her wall. There’s nothing wrong with those convenient methods of communication, of course—as long as they don’t creep in to become a cheap replacement of the real thing.

 

And what about my relationship with God? How often do I settle for a secondhand relationship with him, content to hear about him through a sermon or a book or a friend without taking the extra effort to go deep myself?

 

“Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth….[Christ] waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.”

—A. W. Tozer

 

The Bulls, by the way, experienced a rather ugly loss to a team they should have beaten soundly. But it didn’t matter all that much. Just being eight rows from greatness was gift in itself.

 

Question: In what areas of your life are you settling for a secondhand experience?

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My Heart of Stone September 7, 2012

Filed under: Ezekiel — Stephanie Rische @ 8:14 am
Tags: , ,

Daniel and I recently went on a road trip to St. Louis with two goals in mind: to celebrate our first anniversary and to introduce ourselves to our new six-pound relative.

The moment we laid eyes on our little burrito-wrapped nephew, it was love at first sight. We spent the next several hours exclaiming over his perfect toes, his full head of hair, his tiny fingernails, his wide blue-gray eyes, his whispery eyelashes, his knobby knees. We delighted every time he opened his mouth to yawn or furrowed his eyebrows or made a gassy face (which we shamelessly interpreted as a smile).

He charmed us entirely, without a spark of effort of his part. We’d only just met this little human being, yet our hearts couldn’t be any more tender toward him.

Later that evening Daniel and I headed downtown, and as we walked around the city, I was reminded that my heart’s default setting is decidedly not tender.

I saw the old man with the sign that said, “HOMELES. Need $ for food.” I averted my eyes and walked right by, toward our hotel with the running water and the downy white comforter.

Then there was the crowd of drunk guys heading back from the baseball game, swearing and laughing and generally making fools of themselves. I cast judgmental thoughts in their direction and picked up the pace, not bothering to wonder what hurts they were seeking to drown.

After that we were approached by a man who seemed to suffer from some kind of mental illness and was desperate to share his three jokes with us. I nodded politely but uncomfortably and gripped Daniel’s hand a little tighter, willfully ignoring the loneliness that must have provoked such a solicitation.

Safely back in our room, I faced an ugly realization about my heart condition. I ignore the needy, judge the broken, brush off the lonely. My heart is a heart of stone.

How is it, I wonder, that this same heart that is so hard toward those on the city streets can melt on the spot for Baby Colin? It’s not that our nephew has done anything for us; we love him just because he’s family. Just because he’s ours.

Through the prophet Ezekiel, God gave a message to the exiles who were scattered in enemy territory. God promised that one day they would return to their homeland and that he would do an even greater miracle inside them:

I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God.

—Ezekiel 11:19-20

How quickly I forget how tender God’s heart is toward me, although I’ve done nothing to deserve it. He loves me just because I am part of his family. Just because I’m his.

I want that kind of a heart transplant—my old, stony heart in exchange for his heart. A heart that sees the sketchy, hard-to-love people under the streetlights the way God sees me. Tenderly. Responsively. As if they were my own family.

Because indeed they are.

 

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.