“Rules are tidy. Grace is messy, unpredictable, unquantifiable. I can hold my life up against a set of rules and easily determine if I’m a good person or a bad person. I can do the same with your life, and I can do it from a distance, without having to mess with relationship and compassion and the grittiness of real life.
Not so with grace. Grace risks its reputation to eat with notorious sinners. It sacrifices its schedule to help hurting people. Grace doesn’t allow us the luxury of aloofness. It doesn’t get so distracted with doing good things that it forgets about people. If you choose to live by grace and not by rules, you are in for some messy moments. But once you’ve embraced grace, you’ll never let go.”
-Judah Smith, Jesus is _____
One of my favorite things to do here in Haiti has been to take long walks through and around Titanyen. The walks afford me the opportunity to observe and absorb the complexity of this community, remain in awe of the beauty I’m submerged in, and decompress and download my days here. As time goes by, I like to explore a little farther out and a little higher up the surrounding mountains. A friend and I have already determined which mountains we will conquer and the manner in which we will achieve that victory. These walks always remind me of the Haitian proverb “dèyè mòn gen mòn” which translates to “behind mountains there are mountains”
When I first heard this proverb I thought that it was a relatively unimaginative proverb since nearly anyone with eyes can see that yes, in Haiti there are literally mountains behind mountains. However, as I began asking around to hear what significance others attached to this proverb, it quickly become one of my favorite proverbs (narrowly beating out“sòt pa touye, men li fè ou swe” meaning “stupid doesn’t kill you, but it makes you sweat”). While this proverb is topographically accurate, it also contains beautiful imagery applicable to life.
With sweat dripping out of every pore of our body and two miles (uphill) behind us, my friend and I had finally reached the top of a smaller mountain. While slightly out of breath (seriously, it’s uphill the entire way) we gazed out upon the terrain we had just walked and our new expanded view of Titanyen. Everything looked so small and yet so vast. The colors were so vividly distinguishable yet blended together to paint a stunning picture. The various puzzle pieces of scenery I had collected on the way up had now been perfectly placed together. I couldn’t shut-up about how beautiful I thought the view was and there was certainly no wiping my smile off my lobster-red, sweat-filled face.
On our journey to the top we were the recipients of some weird stares from people riding motos and trucks, we were rapidly becoming dirty and sweaty, and at times thought about turning around. I wished I could stop and explain to everyone giving us weird looks what we were doing, “you see, we want to see the view from up there.” However, we didn’t have the luxury of explaining ourselves to everyone (or anyone) we saw. In a fleeting moment they saw sweaty, dirty people seemingly on their way to nowhere. Suddenly, I was convicted. How often do I see others struggling up their personal mountain and cast a quick, seemingly innocent judgement? How often do I help them reach the top of that mountain so they can see what they’ve just accomplished? How often do I dwell on the achievement of the last mountain I’ve climbed and ignore the mountains yet to come? Lastly, have I forgotten about the grace I have been afforded?
The idea of grace is messy. It doesn’t make sense to our [supposedly] rational, rule-driven agendas. Grace can be just as hard to receives as it can be to extend to others. We’ve been given the ultimate gift of grace in Jesus; He doesn’t look at us and say “ah, nasty. Look at Jake struggling and sweating to get up this mountain” He looks at us and says “I’m here for you, I love you, and I’m proud of you; now lets get you to the top of this mountain.” I wonder what life would be like if I lived and accepted that grace out more often in all facets of life.
I still can’t believe sometimes that I get to do what I’m doing. I get to explore my passion of business and entrepreneurship while simultaneously working with others to get up the various mountains of our lives. These last few weeks have been very busy and exciting as the groundwork is almost finished to get Fleuri bakery, trade school, and pizzaria up and running. I can’t wait to watch God use these institutions to help families climb their personal mountains and allow them to stay together through economic empowerment. With the help of others and by the grace of God, I eagerly await to see the view from my next mountain.