Starting to Grasp Grace

“God gave us free will, knowing full well sometimes we would choose wrong. All He wants is for us to choose Him, knowing what we know. Choosing Him in the middle of the messes we make…” (Kelly Irvin, Love Redeemed, page 130, New Hope Amish Series Book 2)

At the time I’m writing this, I’m three months into the new year and God continues to teach me what grace is. I had a particularly difficult weekend.  My heart was heavy, I was extra emotional, and I was coming off an extremely busy week so exhaustion was high.  I had a series of interactions and questioned whether I’d maintained authenticity as God’s child or had allowed myself to compromise my standards and beliefs through my actions.  However, I really didn’t know if it was just exhaustion speaking, a breeding ground for false guilt, or true compromise.

Around the same time, I was reading a terrific book by Kelly Irvin, Love Redeemed. The above statement hit me hard and allowed me to apply grace to the battle waging inside my head.  You see, there were some truths I knew but was choosing to ignore.  I’m God child.  Every day I choose to spend time deepening my relationship with God and every day I give my choices and decisions and actions over to Him.  Meaning…I don’t wake up and say, “I want my way.”  Instead, I wake up and say, “Use me, Lord, however you want to today.”  So, I know that if I did compromise, it wasn’t intentional but a momentary lapse in judgment, a misunderstanding, or fear of conflict for standing up for my beliefs in the face of others who don’t share how I feel.

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So, I chose at that moment a different path than I’ve taken in the past.  Always before, I’d beaten myself up for days, unable to forgive the slightest offense and questioned all kinds of things about my beliefs and God’s love, making not only myself miserable but those around me as well.  This time, I chose to actively embrace God’s grace.  I knew if I’d actually sinned, it was unintentional.  Just as Peter denied knowing Jesus when cornered by various people on the night his Friend was arrested (Luke 22), if I had “denied” Jesus through words, it was out of being uncomfortable in the situation and unintentional.  So, I prayed and asked forgiveness, asking God to please help me next time to find more courage or better words so my loyalty to Him was unmistakable.

Then, I chose to rest in grace.  I’ve learned enough about God’s grace to know that I need it most when I mess up.  And that’s where words from a fictional character reminded me of a wonderful Biblical truth.   God knows I will mess up.  God knows I will never be perfect.  He doesn’t want me perfect – He wants me devoted.  My devotion for Him never wavered, only my actions about that devotion did.

Do I wish I’d handled things differently?  Yes.  Do I intend to do things differently next time?  Absolutely, beginning with asking God for help ahead of time.  Will I need grace again before I learn this lesson completely? Probably more than once.  Will I get that grace?  Most definitely!

The more I learn about God’s grace, the more peaceful I become.  Not because it gives me free access to sin as much as I want.  Instead, when my imperfections shine through, and they always will, I know God is waiting not with a gavel to throw me into a jail cell, but with loving arms to embrace me and help me do better next time.  I’m not a Christian so I can follow a bunch of rules which will keep me from burning in hell for all eternity.  No, I follow certain rules because I accepted an invitation to have a personal relationship with my Father and I want to please Him.  The rules are there for my protection, not to steal my fun.  And, all the above is cushioned in grace because when, not if, I mess up, God loves me anyway.  No silent treatment, no harsh words, or severe punishments.  Open arms waiting to embrace me, telling me, “Okay, daughter, how’d that work for you?  Are you willing to try it my way next time?

I wish I’d understood grace better years ago. But, I’m thankful God loves me enough to teach it to me now.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

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