While I wish it weren't so, I know that it wouldn't really be grace if it were as easily dispensed as PEZ candy. If it felt good and made me smile and came as naturally as a hearty laugh, it wouldn't be grace. It couldn't be grace— not the genuine, utterly needed and utterly undeserved kind of grace, which is really the only grace there is, because it's the need mixed with the undeserving that makes grace grace.

We call it 'amazing', but it feels anything but amazing in the moment it's given. It feels grueling and painful and impossible. It tastes like swallowed pride and bitter tears. It's as exhausting as going the extra mile and then another and then another. It feels like forgiving 70 times 7, and turning the other cheek, and kissing Judas right back.

It's nothing like a dinner table prayer and everything like a wilderness experience. It's the 40 long days and 40 long nights of saying and wishing and hoping that I can do this, but feeling like I can't. It's the heaviness of one foot in front of the other when there's no end of the road in sight.

It's enduring the heartache of betrayal, the sorrow of loss, the pain of deception, and the humiliation of being made a fool— and still locking eyes and saying 'I'm not going anywhere.'

Grace. It's what sets apart not only Christ, but also Christ followers. Without it, we are but hardened hearts and ungrateful, calloused souls. We are blind eyes and deaf ears and unfeeling hands. We are amnesiacs, quickly forgetful of our own need and undeservedness. Oh, but with it— with it, we are extensions of His likeness, reflections of His character, bearers of His light, glimpses of His face, beats of His heart.

When we extend grace, when we offer it—even through tears— like a beautifully wrapped present held out in our hands, our hearts stoop low, remembering the gift that's been extended to us, over and over and over and over again.