Grace Is Painful

“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” – Flannery O’Conner

Flannery O’Conner

I am a huge fan of Flannery O’Conner. Her work is fascinating and at times difficult to read because of the methods she uses to prove a point or to tell a story. Many times, as I read and reread her works, I find myself flinching. The characters she paints and the way she really attacks the religiosity of the South in the 50’s is still so applicable to us today.

One of my favorite works by her is a collection of short stories called “Everything That Rises Must Converge”. In this particular collection is a story called, “Revelation”. You can read the full story here. It’s a fascinating picture of a woman from the south, Mrs. Turpin, who believes herself to be particularly pious and religious. O’Conner does a wonderful job of painting a picture of this woman eyeing everyone sitting in a doctor’s waiting room and her thoughts about their children, their faces, and how she’s above all of them. I won’t spoil the ending – but Mrs. Turpin has a particularly powerful encounter with one of these people leading to a revelation of her inner heart and the fact that she truly is at odds with the Lord.

I bring this story up because this is a place where the Lord has really been working with me. I really struggle with a lot of the church – things that have been said and done in the name of Jesus. While I believe there is a time and a place to call out people on stuff and things, the Lord continually reminds me that I need to be aware of the state of my own heart.

It is the humbling revelation: the grace that has been given to me is the same grace available to everyone. I am not special. I am not above anyone. When we stand before Jesus, we are all shoulder to shoulder in our sin. This is why grace is alternately painful and beautiful. It is painful because it shows us our nature. We naturally put ourselves above others. It is in our makeup to self-justify, and use the failings of others to vindicate “petty” sins.

Thankfully, the grace of Jesus will not allow us to continue in that way of life. Scripture is clear. Sin is sin is sin. He hates it all, no matter who is committing it. This is why He came; to give us a way to deal with our sin so we can walk in newness of life. When I recognize this, I can walk in the beautiful gift of repentance and cleansing He gives. Repentance is what keeps my heart soft towards Him – and gives me right perspective and love for Him and the people He’s put around me.

Thankful that He is about making transformation a life-long process and that the grace and truth He is, is absolutely sufficient for each day.

Am I alone in sometimes thinking I’m better than everyone? How do you combat the temptation to put yourself above others? What is amazing about grace to you?

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2 thoughts on “Grace Is Painful

  1. Love this, Carrie! Thanks for highlighting a fantastic writer (and one of her most poignant stories, at that). “Revelation” always makes me re-think how I view others, and reminds me that I am child of grace, not of merit.


    1. Friend! Thanks so much for your comment. I remember she was someone who we bonded over almost instantly. “Revelation” is absolutely powerful and a stark reminder/warning to us from Jesus about the leaven of hypocrisy.


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