Have you seen the movie ‘Sliding Doors’?
No, of course you haven’t. It’s not 1998 and you’re not a fourteen-year-old girl. That said, nineteen years after I watched it, an unexpected rerun preached God’s Any-Day-Grace to me. Whatever day I’m living, whatever state I’m in, the gospel of Jesus Christ means nothing’s changed.
For the uninitiated, ‘Sliding Doors’ is about Helen: a London PR junior sacked in the first five minutes for swigging the boss’ Smirnoff. As Gwyneth Paltrow’s character sulks back to a implausibly large apartment, the story splits into two parallel plot-lines – one in which plum-mouthed Helen catches her tube train (and consequently her ghastly phlegm of boyfriend in bed with another woman) and one in which the tube’s sliding doors shut in her face and changing her ‘destiny’.
As these parallel arcs alternate, the viewer’s left wondering; how could an office junior afford a flat like that? Where have I seen that guy before?1 And for the more existential, do our own stories turn on seemingly innocuous moments? Could a sliding door really change my life?
The answer to that last one is emphatically ‘yes’. Cast your mind back to your last bad day; where did the omni-shambles begin? For Helen it’s in the slide of a door, for me it in the realisation that we’re out of morning milk or my son’s decision to post the car keys back through our newly locked door.
I want to paint for you my own parallel plot lines. Both begin in the same bed but take very different turns at the morning alarm. And I want to show you how God’s Any-Day-Grace surrounds us in sunshine regardless of the hour or day or month I’m living.
A Good Day2
It’s 6am and the alarm clock buzzes with gentle anticipation. I’m feeling good. Our 8 month old slept through and I manage to hush the beep before my wife stirs. I spring out of bed, head to the kitchen, remembering to avoid the creaky floorboard at the top of the stairs.
As my darling family rest, I slow-simmer the porridge, sip coffee and have a seriously devoted time with Jesus. I pray for my family, my church, my neighbours and even that grumpy guy across the street. It’s all good.
After showering, I take Jen a coffee and whisper ‘Baby, you sleep on, I’ll sort the kids’. My son is glad to see me, he’s dressed all by himself, and we read the JSB over breakfast together. On the way to school we sing and give thanks to God for his teachers and friends. He skips off to class on time. It’s all good.
I pick up pastries and greet the church staff with a blessing. Floating through the day, I smash a tricky exegesis and even remember to eat my healthy pre-made lunch. After lunch the inbox is zeroed. It’s all good.
Arriving home I’m charged by adoring children and sweep them into my arms. I kiss my wife and we laugh as we eat chicken breast and organic grains. I pretend to be Captain Barnacles at bath time, sing my children to sleep and dust off the cobwebs with a 5-miler before hitting the hay. It’s all good.
A Bad Day
It’s 8:25am and we’re awoken by the sound of running water. Last night I forgot to set the alarm and we wake 5 minutes before our 3 year old starts school. It ok though; he’s been up since 5am and has helped himself to dried cereal and frozen fish fingers. The little lad has also given himself a bath that has been running ever since (which explains the ad hoc alarm). My wife jumps out of bed, aware that she’s now only got 30 minutes to squeeze in our daughter’s morning feed and nap and drive across the city to her first appointment. That’s going to be tricky since our youngest is currently still asleep.
Things are a little tense. There’s no time for a wash. Chewing gum doubles as breakfast and toothbrush as I frantically search the house for my boy’s socks and hurry him to the car. He’ll be late for class, but the school tend to expect that from us by now.
I’m sort of on time for work, but the blood sugars are low. Today, I am not Fun-time Frankie. Determined to get through the exegesis I plough on, stopping only to pick up a Snickers bar for lunch. Thinking I can multitask3, my email pings sufficiently to stop me completing either task. Misunderstandings and impatience ensue, and I leave the office with a to-do list of apologies.
I hit traffic on the way home. The extra 20 minutes gives me time to replay the day’s highlight reel. From then until bed, I spend the evening flickering absently between guilt and grump. Twitter gets a disproportionate share of attention.
At bed time, and I’m suddenly conscious that I know nothing of my wife’s day. My first prayer of the day is late, disappointed and distracted.
Which day did you live today?
You’ll forgive the overstatement; things are rarely that grim. But neither are they ever that great. Which direction was yours leaning today?
Tonight, some of us close our eyes celebrating wins. Others scrunch and hope that tomorrow will be better. Somehow easier. Less frantic. More patient.
Today, some of us fired off an angry email. Others received praise. Some of us preached and a soul was saved. Others preached and friend left the church. For some of us, Mr Hyde is the arrogant monster that claims every success as his own. In others he’s self-loathing and fearful, with an elephant’s memory for sin. Either way, today he was unleashed.
And yet, the gospel of God’s Any-Day-Grace means nothing’s changed. The Righteous has died for sin, once and for all. The grace I offer is not always the grace I grasp, but wonderfully, no matter my condition or conduct, Jesus has’t budged an inch.
Pastor, let the gospel of God’s Any-Day-Grace stir in you again. Claim those words you quote so often: “Our worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.” 4
“Our worst day” – Picture it. It might’ve been today. Maybe you’re still replaying it from years ago. But brother, that unbelievable gospel is true: Christ was killed for you. From dawn til dusk, that worst day is blood-dyed and bleached clean. Our sins might be exposed in the midday sun, but Jesus never moves us to the shadow-lands.
And on “our best day” when a moment of success fools me into thinking that I’ve earned his approval, I’ve edged no closer to glory. Because I can’t. Glory embraced me in the form of a 12 stone Jewish man 2000 years ago.
Nothing I’ve done has contributed to his delight; Jesus swept up the dust of the earth and made us his adored. We’re not sitting on a greased spectrum, sliding back and forth from God’s affection. We’re held in his very heart forever. We edge no closer. We slide no further. In Christ, I’m forever centred in God’s eternal love.
So have a great day. Or maybe not. The gospel of God’s Any-Day-Grace is true whatever.