On being an EGR….gracefully

Rev. Rick Warren has added yet another regularly used acronym to my vocabulary…..”EGR“, thanks to his use of it in his wildly successful Purpose Driven Life book. An “EGR” is an “Extra Grace Required” person in one’s life whose manner constantly works on your patience and forebearance with the same result and annoyance as fingernails scraping on a chalkboard. You know the person(s) in your own life who is your EGR. In fact, Rick Warren suggests that every circle within which we move has an EGR and, if you don’t know who that EGR is among your acquaintances and friends…..it’s probably you!

When I first read this in his book, it made me laugh. Several individuals came to mind for me immediately. Then I had the sobering thought that, if I can think of individuals in that way, then there are most likely those who think of me in that way, as well. As I have considered both knowing and being an EGR, it occurs to me that every one of us is, in all likelihood, an EGR to someone, at least some of the time.

Several of us who participate in an adult Sunday School class together have all read the book and this business of EGRs comes up again and again within the group. It seems to have touched something in each of us and is stored in our collective memory. We all love and grant immense amounts of grace to one another out of the abundance of that love so none of us considers any of the others an EGR within our group.

Today the subject came up again when a member of the class, in asking for prayer, noted that a difficult relationship continues to be, well….difficult. One gentleman noted that he himself has suffered all his life with being an EGR to many people, just for being who and what he is (Attention Deficit Disordered with a tendency toward depression, a retired law enforcement officer, and a generally opinionated individual who, because of his size and demeanor, intimidates some). He wasn’t angry, bitter, or even apologetic about being an EGR to many people. He says that he just simply is what he is and that, while he does struggle against his failings in pursuit of holiness and living in Christ, he is fundamentally the same person he’s always been and that a lot of people don’t seem to find that to be something that they can cozy up to and be warm toward. Let me say that, while I am aware of this gentleman’s rough edges, I know his heart to be both huge and tender and he is in no way an EGR for me. I find him to be easy to communicate with, generous to a fault, and very kind hearted. And yet, I know some for whom he is an EGR. My response to that is that they really haven’t taken the time or don’t have an interest in knowing him for who he really is.

Perhaps all of our EGRs are like that. We have not invested sufficient time in getting to know them. We have not sought to understand and love them just as they are. Our finding them an EGR, then, is more of a commentary on us than it is on them. That I would find it difficult and necessary to muster up within myself a higher degree of love, acceptance, patience, forebearance…in short, grace….for these individuals says more about my shortcomings as a vessel of grace, about the meagerness of my capacity for graciousness, than it does about them as needy individuals who are certainly as worthy of God’s grace as I am. Since I am only a conduit of the grace of God, who is the source of all grace, and since His grace is boundless and infinite for all of us, then the problem is not in the insufficiency of grace or in the demanding nature of the EGR personality, but it is in the undersized volume of my heart that I have not allowed God to fully develop in order that I might love as His heart loves.

It’s like the old adage that “the person whose finger points at others has three pointing back at herself.” (Take a moment to position your own hand in a pointing position and see what I mean!)

So the next time a member of my class nods knowingly and offers the observation that someone is, most likely, an EGR, I’m going to remind them that Rick Warren was very clear that each of us is an EGR for someone. God, please grant that my everyday ordinary capacity for grace would be enlarged, that I could love and accept each person I encounter with your grace abounding so that no single individual is such a challenge for me that I have to reach down into some grace reserve to try to love them out of my own strength. Make it effortless and easy to give grace in an extravagant and overflowing kind of way, not begrudgingly and with an eye to giving only what is absolutely required.