One of the most moving scenes in modern cinema is the closing scene of Saving Private Ryan. Tom Hanks is dying, and in his last words he pulls young Private Ryan to his face and whispers “Earn this… Earn it.”
And as the camera dissolves we see Ryan, now an old man, staring down at the grave of the man who saved him, quietly speaking,
“Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.”
And he turns to his wife and says, “Tell me I have led a good life… Tell me I’m a good man.”
And you realize that this good, gentle man has been haunted every day of his life with the question of whether he was good enough, of whether he was good enough to earn the life that he was given.
I think many of us have been haunted by those thoughts. Am I good enough? Have I been good enough to earn the life and the grace that I’ve been so blessed with?
And the simple truth is that we don’t earn grace. We don’t earn life. It is freely and abundantly given to us.
We don’t have to live in fear of whether we are good enough. We don’t have to live in guilt over our mistakes and failures. God’s grace is always there. God’s grace is always without measure. God’s grace is always streaming toward us, washing over us, cleansing us, healing us, blessing us. There is no stopping it, no slowing it down. That’s why it’s grace.
You don’t have to earn your life. You don’t have to earn God’s grace. You can’t. You can’t earn what is already yours. You can’t earn what you’ve already been given. Just welcome it, enjoy it, and live your life to the full.