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Grace Abounding

I read recently a report detailing an investigation into RCMP misconduct. One finding of the investigation: the RCMP were guilty of a "flawed process." There was botched handling of the situation, insufficient checks and balances, ignorance or negligence of procedural protocols, and the like.

My single opinion about all that: being a cop is a tough job, and anyone subjected to the same level of intense scrutiny might likewise be found guilty of a "flawed process." But I got mulling over that phrase "flawed process." We only ever hear that when something goes wrong. Indeed, we only ever really scrutinize any process when we don't like the outcome. Failure, disaster, tragedy, damage – these are what spark an investigation into process. What happened here? What went wrong? Who's to blame?

Success, victory, prosperity, healing – these rarely spark investigation. They just prompt celebration. We don't do post-mortems on live bodies, and we don't inquire deeply into why something works out. We're just glad it does. When faced with massive failure, we cast about for someone to blame. We dig and pry and burrow. And almost always we discover a "flawed process." But when greeted by dazzling success, we just tend to laugh, cheer, congratulate each other, maybe hand out bonuses, and inquire no further. We chalk it up to our brilliance and hard work. End of story. No investigation required.

But here's what I've begun to realize: success is produced by flawed process as much as failure is. Success, like failure, is the result of many things we neither predict nor control. Winning, not just losing, is usually marked by a significant measure of bumbling, guessing, lurching, leaps in the dark, and hair-brained risks. But all of that, if we notice it at all, is praiseworthy, not blameworthy, as long as we like the outcome. The man who takes a wild risk and loses a million dollars is an idiot. The man who takes a wild risks and makes a million is a genius.

But there's a deeper thing going on here. The Bible says grace soaks the whole thing. Grace, not flawed or brilliant process, is the real story in both our success and our failure, our winning and our losing. There is not one inch where grace doesn't abound. There is not one situation where grace isn't sufficient. Grace is thick in your most spectacular victories. And grace pours out and leaps up in your most crushing defeats.

So the next time anything goes really right or really wrong, accept that both came about by a flawed process. But even more, know that each contains a wealth of grace. If you investigate anything, look hard for that.


Pastor Mark

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