But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18, NRSV)
It’s like nothing is simple anymore. I have trouble breaking the patterns of decades and following the arrows on the floor of various local stores, in part because I’m struggling with my glasses fogging up. Masks can make glasses a bit of a challenge. But on this day, I was ready. I was masked, distanced, and waiting to use one of the automated tellers at the bank. The machines are not 6 feet apart, unhappily (how I fondly remember those days when I wasn’t required to constantly estimate safe distance from others!), and the bank had posted a sign asking customers to use only one of the devices at a time. As I dutifully watched the two people at the machines (yes, two people!) I confess to wondering if they’d actually paid any attention to the notice. But I was prepared to wait. However, as one of the customers left someone else breezed in and took the empty spot, looking to me to see if I wanted to take it. I shook my head, virtuously kept silence, but inwardly seethed. Don’t they get it?
Somewhere along the way in my journey as a disciple I was introduced to the concept of the “grace builder.” These are the folk we meet both in and out of the church who are—for a range of possible reasons—profoundly irritating. They are people who manage to get under your skin with ease and efficiency. It’s as if they have a knack for it. Some are easy to see, with some others it takes a bit of time for awareness of this gift to become evident to us. It’s wholly possible that I may be or have been a grace builder for you. We’re everywhere, which makes dealing with the irritating something of a challenge.
Of course, within that challenge lies promise, for there is also the possibility of maturing as a disciple. The author of 2 Peter writes of growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, to reflect more of the image of Christ in our lives. Advent, the Church season that we entered on November 28th, is meant to be a period of preparation for the arrival of the Christ, and elements of the preparing include reflection and penance. How that functions in each of us varies, but I’ve stumbled across a discipline that I am finding helpful: paying attention to the irritations, and I find that they are in good number. They may also just be opportunities for growing in grace. And so through gritted teeth I say, “Thank you, God, for the grace builders.”