Grace… it’s been on my mind a lot lately. Jesus had a lot to teach me about grace, and it took me a long time to grasp it. And yet, grace abounds. And here I am still… with a whole lot more to learn.
Its funny, as a young girl I thought it was in my power to be loved by God. I had this skewed image of Jesus as a holy finger wagger reminding me constantly of all that I shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t dare to do if I were a good christian girl. If I could just “get it right”, it would all fall into place and I would have my crown of jewels in heaven. It wasn’t in my power at all to be loved by God. Nothing I could do would make him love me… because He already did. Nothing I could do would make Him love me more… because He loved me more than I could ever understand at that time and probably more than I ever truly could fathom. I didn’t get it… I didn’t understand grace. I accepted it, surely… but I somehow still thought I owed a debt for it… but the truth is, the debt has been paid.
Grace is an outward sign of the redemptive power of unconditional love. Grace wins. Grace allows us the freedom to be human without being relinquished to condemnation and the opportunity to experience love in a way that brings gratitude and humility. Grace WILL change your heart. When we experience God’s love through the lense of grace we are able to see those around us with much more clarity… not defined by our own agendas or perceptions, but by God’s. We find compassion where there was contempt. We can trade our anger for understanding. We find peace where there was once turmoil. The things of this earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
Growing up in a Baptist church I learned a whole lot about keeping God’s commandments, about being holy and reverent and chaste. I learned a lot about my duty as a good christian “lady” and that I needed to protect my “witness” so that God can use me in the kingdom. I grew up fearful of messing up, fearful of not “getting it right”, buying into the lie that there are people living perfectly holy lives that are more righteous, more loved, more favored, and more blessed by God than I could ever be… because Lord knows I was a mess - living with secret sin, afraid to be real, unable to talk about my struggles for fear it would be a “stumbling block” or would ruin my “witness for Christ”. Believing I was alone in this, because that is exactly what the enemy wants… he wants us to live in fear. He wants us to live in the dark, alone and isolated, believing we are the only ones. Because there is power in numbers, power in common ground, power in truth… even the dirty gritty truth. Because once we are willing to bare our souls in the light of God’s love we are able to experience His grace… undeserved, unencumbered grace. We can bask in the reality that we aren’t alone in our struggles, and that no matter what we have done or where we have been God loves us and because of what we have done and where we have been he can use us… for HIS glory, and not our own… because in our weakness He is made strong. Grace is so much more powerful than fear.
Fear changes behavior… but it doesn’t change the heart. When we live our lives by a set of rules, Christian principles that we must live up to, then we are living more by fear… we don’t want to “mess up”. It becomes about the outward appearance of a “holy life” rather than a heartfelt relationship with the Savior. Living by grace is living in God’s agape love, understanding we won’t always get it right, but that striving to reflect Christ’s love and grace to others is much more important than any Christian checklist or by-laws or doctrine that we will ever try to check off, line up to, or live by.
Fear gets you an “insurance policy”... a buy-in that comes with a cost… one that you quickly learn you can’t possibly pay, and one that lands you in a pit of despair and self condemnation. You spin your wheels trying to “be good” and wondering if the policy is going to pay out in the end because perhaps you didn’t follow the fine print. That isn’t any way to live.
Grace is an outpouring of God’s love, mercy, and favor… for our own benefit. Grace has allowed me to come out of the dark… to see my past in the light of God’s love. It has afforded me a ministry to many others who think their past disqualifies them. To those who think they are far too damaged, carry too much baggage, and hide their past and their hurts out of shame. God’s grace has filled me with a love that sees the brokeness and envisions the beauty God will bring out of the ashes.
Don’t live another day with the lie that you aren’t good enough for God’s grace… the truth is none of us are. And yet, he pours it out on us so freely. You don’t have to pretend, you don’t have to hide your past, your flaws, your secrets… they lose their power over you when you lose your fear that you can’t live up to God’s standards. And you can only lose that by realizing you never could and God knows it… which is why He gave us Jesus.
I no longer live in guilt and shame… God traded the oil of joy for my mourning. Out of despair I now have purpose. I choose love. I choose grace. I choose to show grace to others in the way that God has been gracious with me… and THAT is The Great Commission. Grace wins.