(Really, Teresa? Again with this grace thing?)
Yea, I know. I talk about it here a lot. That’s why last month I started this monthly series [Grace Is…] to talk about what’s so central to my faith. And something occurred to me just yesterday about grace that I wanted to share with you.
Consider for a moment how someone shows you kindness, patience, acceptance when you’re not quite meeting expectations. When you can’t get something right. When you keep messing up. Do you have some images in your head?
The first time, maybe they pat you on the shoulder and say, “That’s okay.” They cock their head to one side with an empathetic smile.
The next day, you make the same mistake again. Oops. “Alright, Teresa. I guess I can look past it.” Their empathetic smile looks a little more forced this time.
The third day, things turn a bit. You just can’t get it right and in your frustration, you add a little tantrum to your uh-oh moment. And they react stronger. “Come, on. Again? I really and getting sick of this. Why can’t you learn?” Something inside you shrinks under the scrutiny.
Beaten down and anxious, the fourth day comes and despite all efforts, you screw up yet again. Rats! And they retaliate. “That’s it! I’ve given you plenty of chances. There’s no hope for you to learn the right way! I don’t have time to wait on you to fix this. I’m outta here!” They storm off. You’re left alone in a wake of disappointment, ridicule, and anger.
No one wins.
But grace is different. Oh, it’s so radically, beautifully, life-alterningly different.
Let’s re-frame the above scenario and replace “they” with “God.”
The first time you screw up, God says, “That’s okay. I love you.”
The second time you screw up, God says, “That’s okay. I love you. Have you read my Word? There’s some helpful tips in there.”
The third time you screw up, God says, “That’s okay. I love you. Any time you need help, don’t hesitate to come to me in prayer. I’m always here to listen and to speak to you in the quiet, hard times as well as the good times.”
The fourth time you screw up, God says, “That’s okay. I love you. I know you’re trying, but you’re not made to be perfect. That’s why I sent my Son. Jesus died so you don’t have to worry about your mistakes ruining you. Lean on me and together we’ll get through this.”
Grace wins every time.
It’s RADICAL. BEAUTIFUL. LIFE-ALTERING….DIFFERENT.
I don’t know about you, but at thirty-five years old, my conversation with God is about the #9,874,093,129 screw up (though, he’s not keeping score.) And yet, his response still begins with, “It’s ok. I love you.”
Some people will think I am boiling down Christianity too much….a dehydrated, extract version of the faith. But to me, it really is this simple: God loves me no matter what. God sent Jesus to die for my mistakes. I should try to love others in Jesus’ name. The end.
Grace does not expire.
Grace does not run out.
Grace does not become stale or stiff or impatient.
This thought dawned on me the other day because I was struggling with something I’ve struggled with for years. Self-discipline. Specifically with food. I felt so frustrated with myself. As usual, my impulse was to pray for strength. I went to God with a defeated, head held low, tail-between-my-legs prayer. “Hey God, it’s me again. I screwed up again. I don’t know how long you’ll put up with this.” Immediately, I thought of this verse from 2 Corinthians:
EACH time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
I particularly like this version from the New Living Translation for the use of the word “each” at the beginning. Not just one time, not just the first time…but each time. And, grace isn’t part of a special recipe. It’s ALL we need. Grace is birthed out of God’s gift of Jesus. His grace is ALL we need. That’s it. Nothing else. Simple. Done. It also gives us context for our weakness. I don’t mean to say that God needs our weakness to be powerful, but think about it. Isn’t God’s grace and forgiveness all the more wondrous, magical, priceless because we so desperately need it?
But God doesn’t stop there. There’s icing on top of this grace cake. The last line of the passage. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. God doesn’t want us to hide in shame, part of the third-string team who can’t quite get the moves right. Nope. He’s got you decked out in the starter uniform and he’s putting you in the game. You’re his star player. Through your mistakes, uh-ohs, and repeated oops’s he can use you for his glory.
How amazing is that? I hope you’re encouraged by this epistle. I just can’t keep quiet about this grace thing. Couldn’t if I tried. 🙂
To wrap things up…there’s some great music out there on Christian radio using the theme of grace. I’ve been hearing them a lot lately. My current favorite (as in, I go to sleep and wake up with it in my head!) is…
“Grace Wins” by Matthew West — LISTEN HERE!
Next installment of the [Grace Is…] Series — TWEET THIS!
What if we let GRACE WIN out over our imperfectness, guilt, and pain? — TWEET THIS!
God’s grace is beautiful, radical, life-alteringly different from anything else the world has to offer. — TWEET THIS!
Grace does not expire, run out, or become stale. — TWEET THIS!