What does grace mean to the giver?
I guess the point about grace is that it starts from love. This is something that is open to us to experience as human beings. The trouble is, the language of love is blurred today; we tend to think of it as being transactional - you do something for me, I do something for you. This idea of relationships is described in Ecclesiastes - not in an approving way, but as part of what life looks like "under the sun" - if you take God out of the equation. "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." As though the whole point of relationships is to make you stronger, a kind of evolutionary strategy.
But that's not what love is. Love makes you weaker. Or perhaps slightly more accurately, love has a cost. You give yourself for the other person. For example, parents sacrifice their comfort, wealth, and sleep to care for children. For all the jokes about what we expect our children to do when we need to be cared for, both the parents and the children know that there's nothing the child is ever going to be able to do which will make up for what their parents have done for them. Other relationships are like that as well - although it may be the case that both parties in a relationship sacrifice themselves within it.
I think that's how we need to understand how God is towards us. He created us, he loves us - not in a way that he is ever going to get anything back from. In fact, in the same way that there's nothing a child can really do to give anything back to their parents, there is absolutely nothing we can give back to God - because it was he who gave it to us in the first place. There's more - because we have "sinned", rebelled against God, he actually needs to come and rescue us. The price of this, in Christian terms, is massive - God, in the person of Jesus, comes and gives up his life to save us from the consequences of our sin. In the same way that a parent would do anything, give anything for their children, or a lover would do anything, give anything for his or her beloved, God has done everything and given everything to save us.
But the significant question is, why? What does he get out of it? Is it some kind of power trip to get people to worship him? Well, if you are the creator of the universe and so on, you don't need to surrender yourself to achieve this. In the same way as the pagan kings in the Bible could simply pass a law commanding everyone to bow down to them, and couple it with a death sentence for those people who didn't, there's no reason that God could not have done that. "Worship me - and if you don't, you'll face my judgement." If you accept that he is the creator of the universe, then it's hard to say that this is an unreasonable position to take.
But he doesn't.
Instead he gives us everything, eventually even himself. He knows that as he gives us this, we have done nothing to deserve it, and there's nothing we can do to repay it. So why does he? The answer is, because he loves us. "I know you don't deserve it. I know you can't repay it. But I love you - so I am pouring this out upon you..."
How does one react to this? Remember, nothing you can give back will ever repay what you have been given - and that's not what God expects - in the same way that we don't tot up the debt our children have for us and present them with a bill, and we don't keep a kind of ledger of the good things and bad things that our lover does for us if we truly love them - we just give, because it's what we want to do. What do you want from someone you have poured out your grace on, out of love? I would suggest that you just want them to value it, to be thankful for it, to recognise it. You want don't want them to do anything, you just want to know that they understand what you have done for them, and value it.
Now, what happens if you don't value what someone has done for you? You can imagine a situation where children are ungrateful for what their parents have done - they don't appreciate it, or mock it, or whatever. Or no matter what a lover does, his or her beloved is indifferent and unmoved by it. Eventually, the heart of the person pouring out their grace will be broken, they will stop giving. Eventually, in a sense, this also becomes an act of grace - the final one - the child does not want the embarrassment of their parents showing their love; the way the lover pours out grace on the beloved when the beloved is indifferent is just awkward. Better in those circumstances for the grace to cease, to allow distance between the two parties. The parent, the lover has not stopped loving, but unrequited love ultimately goes nowhere.
So what should grace mean to us?
I suppose we need to grasp the nature and meaning of grace, in the first place. God's grace to us means that there is nothing we can give back - for our life, for our salvation. Anything we have to offer God is what he has already given us - it's his already. And he's not looking for you to "give anything back" to him. Or "give anything" to him at all. He simply wants you to understand and value what he's given you.
Again, it helps to think about this in terms of human relationships. What would the beloved do if the lover pours out grace upon them? They would simply love back. They would recognise how much they have been given, and be simply devoted in return. They don't need to do anything - the lover doesn't give a list of rules that need to be obeyed in return for their love - because they are simply pouring out their love. But even so, it is easy to see that there are ways of behaving in the light of that love which aren't an appropriate response to it. Parents don't approach their relationship with their children as a kind of quid pro quo thing - but everybody knows how awkward it is to see children who are ungrateful, who take what their parents give them for granted.
This imagery does exist in the Bible in more concrete form (eg. the book of Hosea) as well as in discussion about salvation by grace, and what the law means for people who have been saved. It's wrestled out in the New Testament as well - how are we supposed to live? What are we supposed to do? We are not called to live under the law, but that doesn't mean that what we do doesn't matter. There is a picture of what it is like when it goes wrong in both brothers in the story of the Prodigal Son - the younger brother takes for granted what his father has done for him - but the older brother is clearly resentful of his father as well - the same grace has been poured out on both of them, but the older brother talks about the fact that he has been "slaving" for him and "never disobeyed [his] orders" - this isn't the language of someone responding to love.
The image of the older brother was arguably the main point of the parable, addressed to the target audience - the Pharisees, who resented the fact that Jesus was drawing "sinners" back to God. Their lives had been based on keeping the rules, on proving they were good enough for God. But that was not how God had ever brought people to himself - he had always given salvation to his people. It's hard for those of us from a religious background to hold onto the fact that it's nothing that we have done that saves us - we tend to think, like the Pharisees, that we are pretty good - and lose sight of the fact that God has simply poured out his grace upon us because he loves us, even though there was nothing we could give to him. That's what we need to be holding onto.
This post is just musing; if there are theological errors, they are all mine.