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PUTTING on MY LIPSTICK and MY DANCING SHOES
IN MY DREAMS, I am a dancer, gliding across a polished wooden dance floor in three-quarter time. I’m agile and smooth, my every movement flowing and fluid. I’m lithe and nimble, graceful as a gazelle.
In my dreams, that is.
In real life, I trip over my feet more often than not, even while standing still. The truth is, I can’t dance. I got no rhythm. Can’t waltz, can’t tango. Can’t fox-trot, can’t jitterbug, can’t watusi, can’t do-si-do, can’t do the electric slide.
I tried line dancing once and kicked some lady in the knee.
I’m woefully lacking in grace. Grace deficient. Grace doesn’t come naturally to me.
But I want grace! I want to be graceful. To be full of grace. I want to receive it, give it, live in it, wash in it. I want to immerse myself in grace–amazing, glorious grace.
It’s what we all want, whether we know it or not. The problem is that grace is a nebulous word, like faith and love. You can define it (“unmerited favor”) but still not understand what it means. Some words are best glimpsed. Don’t tell me about grace–show me what it looks like in everyday life.
That’s what I’ve attempted to do in Lipstick Grace: Glimpses of Life, Love, and the Quest for the Perfect Lip Gloss. I’ve attempted to show you what grace looks like: saving grace, sufficient grace. Common grace, sanctifying and redeeming grace. Grace that comes through faith in Christ. Grace that draws sinners to the Cross again and again and again.
We can never get enough grace.
If there’s such a thing as a favorite theologian, Martin Luther tops my list. A sixteenth-century German monk, Luther stumbled upon the concept of grace while reading the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans: “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17, KJV).
Up until that time, Luther had spent his life trying to atone for his own sins, beating himself and spending hours on his knees confessing his sins, and then agonizing in case he forgot one.
But once the lightbulb went on and he realized that it truly is by grace alone that we are saved and by grace alone that we live, he became one of the greatest grace teachers of all time. The just shall live by faith, which comes solely by grace.
As the story goes, someone once said to Luther, “Grace, grace, grace, all you ever talk about is grace.”
To which Luther replied, “That’s because grace is all there is.” I don’t know if that’s a true story about Luther–I heard it in a sermon once. If it’s not true about Luther’s conversation, it’s still a true statement about grace.
Grace is all there is.
Grace is God’s invitation to dance with Him.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). That all the whosoevers who would believe in Him would not perish, but dance with Him forever.
Apart from grace we are helpless and hopeless. Onlookers and outcasts, in despair and eternally doomed. That’s why we who have tasted grace, given to us by the God of grace through faith in His Son, can’t stop talking about it. Grace makes blind men see, lame men walk, and dead men get up and dance.
This book is a collection of my glimpses of grace, taken from the past five or so years worth of my weekly column, “Grace Notes,” which I write for a Florida daily newspaper, the Citrus County Chronicle, where I am on staff as a feature writer. My column also appears in about a dozen newspapers elsewhere.
In my column, and therefore in this book, I have wrestled with my relationships with people and with God and with my own self.
I’ve confessed my sins, questioned my motives and actions and thoughts. I’ve voiced my doubts as well as my certainty about matters of faith and trust.
I’ve blathered about petty things like finding the perfect lipstick and have confessed that same pettiness, all the while marveling at the incredible forgiveness, mercy, and grace of our great God.
Grace. It always comes back to grace. It’s all that matters. Every moment, every hour, every day.
Grace, grace, grace.
It’s all there is–so put on your lipstick and your dancing shoes, and let’s dance!
EVERY WEEK I sit down to write all about how much I love Jesus so you will want to be like me, but then I get a pang of conscience and I end up writing the truth. For example, my all-consuming passion these days isn’t loving Jesus, but trying to find the perfect lipstick.
Although I want the passion of my life to be Jesus, right now it’s not; it’s lipstick. Not too red, not too pink, not too brown–and it has to be shiny.
The problem is, I can’t find just one satisfactory lip product, so I’ve had to resort to using a combination of six products: a flesh-colored base, a lip-plumping moisturizing product, a pink liquid lipstick, and–since that’s too pink–on top of that, I use a brownish liquid.
Over all of that goes clear, shiny stuff, and then over that goes a setting solution that acts like a lipstick glue. It burns when applied and smells like turpentine, and users are cautioned not to swallow any of it. But it’s worth the 140-mile round-trip drive to Orlando and the fifteen dollars I pay for it because it’s guaranteed to keep lipstick perfect for hours–as long as you don’t eat or drink or smile too broadly.
Of course, my lips will probably fall off by the time I’m sixty, but at least they’ll look pink and shiny lying on the ground.
I was telling all of this to a group of Lutheran women recently at their women’s retreat. They had invited me to speak to them about the grand passion of my life.
I began by asking them, “What holds you? What captivates your attention and captures your heart? What’s the first thing you think about in the morning–and the last thing at night?”
Because we’re all proper church ladies, we knew the correct answer was, of course, “Jesus.”
I had come to talk to them about Jesus. But something awesome happened after I asked that question. We–the Lutheran women and me, too–put aside the correct answer and started talking about the honest answer, which too often is “not Jesus.”
Instead, we talked about lipstick and chocolate and hidden stashes of food. We talked about worrying about our kids, fretting about husbands who don’t put away their laundry, and being overly concerned with what people think of us.
Eventually we talked about Jesus, but we had to deal with the “not Jesus” stuff first. The honest stuff. The real stuff that captures our hearts and holds us captive. The stuff from which Jesus wants to set us free.
When we did that, when we risked being honest instead of being correct, when we stopped pretending and got real, something happened.
I didn’t plan it. I don’t think any of us can plan grace. Grace just is. God gives it when and where He sees fit.
He saw fit that day.
It was by His grace I was able to confess that my whole life currently revolves around the color of my lips and not Jesus. Grace enabled me to admit that I don’t have it all together, that I’m basically a mess, but a mess for whom Jesus died and dearly loves.
When grace happens, messy people are free to admit their struggles to each other and know that they will be accepted. Maybe not always by each other, but definitely by God.
The truth is, I’ll never love Jesus the way I should, or even the way others think I do. Something always interferes. If it’s not lipstick, then it’s watching Gilmore Girls or eating waffles and maple syrup or searching for the perfect relationship.
As long as I’m a sinner, I’ll continue to chase after all those somethings that lure my affections away from the only One whose love can fill the empty parts inside.
That’s why I need grace. And if I ever start to forget, I have a bathroom drawer full of discarded lipsticks to remind me.