I finally recognized a lesson that God has been trying to get through my thick head. I know all about God's grace, at least being on the receiving end of it. Knowing you've fouled something up, having no good excuse for it, and experiencing that God has given you the forgiveness you need is an incredible feeling. I can attest to what a wonderful gift it really is. But like any gift, it might be free for the recipient, but it cost the giver something to give. It cost God too, and He gives it without being begrudging.
I've been in a position to give out that same kind of grace a million times over the course of my life, but I have not, through my own dense-headedness, been able to recognize it as a true grace-opportunity. I have readily recognized it as an excuse to be angry, or to acknowledge my right to a little justice, should I decide to do so. Or, I could give out forgiveness for entirely prideful and self-serving purposes.
I believe that you can't experience true grace - giving or receiving - as long as pride is in the way. Over the course of the last month, God has gifted me with the same situation repeating itself over and over again, until I finally saw it for what it was, and dealt with it accordingly. I got a raw deal from someone I’d spent a lot of time helping. It hurt. It was very deflating. It wasn't fair. And one of the people involved asked for my help a short time later. I ignored her plea, thought she surely must be crazy, and held a silent grudge. I swore Hades itself would freeze over before she got any assistance from me. And I got kicked in the teeth again, same person involved, same situation. I knew my previous reaction was wrong in the eyes of God, so this time I doled out a little punishment by waiting before I begrudgingly (and minimally) helped. I got a bigger kick in the teeth in return (I guess God wasn’t satisfied with my meager efforts). This time I finally saw the situation as a textbook Grace-Opportunity, directly from the God of the Universe.
Did I feel she deserved my grace? Absolutely not. But thank God we don't necessarily get what we deserve in life; and those that hurt us, in reality, have very little to do with it anyway. This was a matter between God and myself. I will readily admit that despite finally seeing the parallels between my appreciation for receiving grace, and my responsibility for giving it out as well, I found it distasteful to comply. And it took me several tries to do it without any thinly-disguised malice. But now that it's done, I feel changed for the better by having done it.
Hopefully I won't need to repeat this lesson yet again, at least not with this particular person and situation. And next time someone flings a little deceit and pain in my path (there will no doubt be a next time) I pray for a better initial reaction. The hardest part, for me, has been, and will be, recognizing it as a Grace-Opportunity, and knowing that God has put it there for my benefit.