As promised, here’s my first chapter of my upcoming book on grace. Thanks for all the feedback on Facebook!
Pectus excavatum contrary to the nature of its deceiving sound is not one of the over 120 spells taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Rather it is a deformity causing the chest cavity to sink in and in severe cases restricting the amount of air that enters the lungs and/or compressing the heart to the point limiting the amount of blood it can pump out at any given time. It is more common than one thinks, found in nearly 1 out of 1,000 people. While the cause of this deformity is known, there appears to be a genetic link passed down through lineages.
Aside from the physical side effects of this condition, there are also psychosocial effects as with any bodily deformity. The child is aware that he is not like other children, becomes afraid to take his shirt off in front of others to go swimming, etc.
I would know because it is a condition I lived with my whole life. When I was born, my parents were not able to afford the necessary surgery to correct the deformity and I was left to live with it, psychosocial side effects and all. Over the years, I have come to realize that a lifelong condition like pectus excavatum makes the perfect starting point for a discussion on grace.
Grace As A Condition
The funny thing about grace is that you don’t have a choice in the matter. As a condition of living, breathing, being born, you are automatically and irrevocably born into the lifelong condition of God’s grace. Paul paints a picture of this condition in his letter to the Romans:
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass (ie. the original sin). For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Paul paints it in a much better light than a condition, calling it a gift rather than a deformity. While that is true, the concept remains the same. Grace is given without our permission.
Grace As an Embarrassment
The difference between a gift and a deformity is that you can choose to reject the gift. In some sense, if the medical science allows it, you could choose to reject a deformity as well. But then again, the point of this exercise is not stretch an analogy thin, but rather to gain some understanding of grace in our lives.
For some, grace is an embarrassing chest cavity that compels us to wear shirts over our bathing suits. I made the irrational case to my friends that I would get too cold while swimming, so a shirt was needed. In reality, I was embarrassed. I didn’t look like the other boys and I didn’t want to be fodder for their jokes. So I dealt with soggy shirt that slowed me down and made it harder to swim.
Likewise, we often attach a stigma of shame to the grace we receive. It is almost as if we are making an announcement on the world’s largest billboard of our shameful, sinful acts. It feels like all the eyes of the world are looking at us in the moment and we are just admitting defeat. Just give me my shirt and let me sink to the bottom of the pool. I’m cold.
When in reality, we are missing the beauty and power of grace.
Grace isn’t about drowning us, but about experiencing the thrill of plowing through water. It’s buoyancy and freedom. It’s swimming in a pool of people who in reality all have sunken chests and they just don’t care. They’re more worried about who is going to be ‘Marco’ and who is going to shout ‘Polo’.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. – 2 Corinthians 3:17
Grace is Common
One in 1,000. Grace has much better odds. It’s 1 in 1. If you were born, then you were given it. We are prone to view the troubles of our past in a much worse light than reality suggests and we often do not think these other humans, given the same facilities as us, have not been through it. But in reality, we all in need of grace.
Dove, the makers of soap and beauty products for women, recently launched social experiment involving seven women and former FBI forensics sketch artist, Gil Zamora. The seven women were brought into a divided loft. They were not told what the experiment was about, only that they would need to answer questions about themselves to Gil who sat on the other side of the curtain. Gil was not allowed to see the women and would draw a sketch of each person based solely on their self description.
The experiment did not end there, as each woman was told to pair up with another person. Their partner was then brought into loft and went through the same process of describing the women who went through the initial sketches. The results were astonishing. When describing themselves, the faces were disproportionate, looked “more tired”, and uglier than their counterparts. The partners on the other hand described an almost perfect replica resulting in a lifelike sketch.
Dove’s experiment opened our eyes to self deception and ill perceptions. Grace is no different. You are not the first person to have a shameful past, and certainly will not be the last. The reality of the situation is that grace, acceptance, forgiveness are needed by humans, not just you.