Turn to me and be gracious to me…Psalm 86:16
Let’s face it: we’re spending a lot of time with our loved ones in close quarters these days. I’ve found myself saying this repeatedly over the past few weeks — to friends, to family members, to myself: “be gracious.” It has been my constant prayer this month. Chances are, most of the people in your life aren’t their healthiest selves right now. They’re wracked with fear and anxiety, which means they aren’t the best version of themselves right now.
Which means it’s really important for you to be gracious with them.
Because chances are, you’re not your healthiest self right now either.
“Gracious” is a word that bears much freight. To be gracious is to summon empathy, to be generous in assuming the best rather than assuming the worst. It almost always requires patience and gentleness. Graciousness is one of those qualities: a bit difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it.
One of my mentors always prefaces his prayers by addressing the Lord as, “Gracious God.” That’s always stood out to me. I think it’s because Gary knows the riches of God’s grace toward himself and toward others. He has proclaimed God’s good news of grace to countless people. But I’ve seen behind the curtain; I know that for him, it’s more than prayer jargon. He’s one of the most genuinely gracious people I know, a true gentleman in every sense of the word.
In the midst of quarantine, fear can easily do its worst in us. And that fear can come out “sideways” — as anger, as irritability, in children as disobedience or back-talking. But one way or another, that anxiety and fear will seep its way into our lives and spill out onto those around us.
When that happens, the people in your life need your mercy, not your wrath.
Full disclosure: I wasn’t very gracious toward my loved ones tonight. So when I talk about things coming out “sideways,” I speak from experience. But something beautiful happened afterward. As I apologized to each member of my family, I asked them to be gracious toward me. And in their responses, I was reminded of the image of God in each one of them as they turned toward me to show me grace.
Be gracious to each other.