Writing is always an adventure to me because I never really know where my words will end up, what they will communicate or who they will end up reaching and ultimately speak to.
I usually write on Sunday and post on Monday but the weekend was packed with activities that prevented me from doing so. So I’m playing catch up.
Before I could finally begin writing (I started this B-entry on Monday afternoon), I needed to get a few things accomplished; I had to prepare lesson plans for a class, stop by the bank and grab a few things from the grocery store.
As I entered my local bank branch I found myself enveloped in a sea of campaign banners strategically placed throughout the lobby; at every entrance – on every counter – and on every wall.
As I waited for the teller to process my transactions my eyes locked onto the large banner directly over her right shoulder. The advertisement read:
“24 Hour Grace”
…referring to the forgiveness policy product available to customers when an account is overdrawn. So why the entourage of branding efforts? Well…you simply can’t receive the benefits of ‘24 Hour Grace’ unless you sign up!
Hmmmmm, I thought, as I returned to my car and headed home. I could not get the ‘24 Hour Grace’ phrase out of my head.
It was then that I knew what I wanted to write about. And so I began to contrast the difference between my bank’s interpretation of (conditional) non-life-changing ‘grace’ and my God’s provision of (unconditional) absolute-life-changing grace.
I decide to go to my bank’s website to explore this customer product further. I was intrigued about their use of the word ‘grace’ so I went fishing to see what I could find.
The fine print was insightful and clear about this ‘generous’ policy which promotes ‘24 Hour Grace’ as being “a beautiful thing”…and that’s not all:
- It allows you a brief window of opportunity to correct the error of your ways, that is:
- You have 24 hours and 24 hours only – to make right your wrong.
- If you fail to make a deposit into your account even 1 second after the 24 hour grace period,
- You will be obligated to pay the full penalty fee for being “a neglectful, irresponsible sinner!”
- Of course the weight of responsibility depends on YOU and YOU alone.
- YOU have to make the necessary deposit or YOU will be exempt from receiving the generous ‘24 Hour Grace’ period that was extended to you from the kindness of their ‘generous heart.’
- Depending upon the kind of transaction you make (to correct your neglectful behavior) you should know that there are certain cut off times that will determine if your attempt to reconcile your account is accepted or rejected.
- Fees are waived (pardon is granted) only if you follow all the rules.
Any takers? Who wants to sign up?
I don’t know about you, but I need an:
- Any time
- Any day
- Under any circumstance
- No fine print
- 24/7 kind of Grace!
God’s grace truly is a beautiful thing …but what is it really all about? And why is it so important? What relevance and impact does it have on our daily lives? What does it look like (or smell like if you read my blog last week)? What does it feel like? What does it act like? Who is it for? Who deserves it and who doesn’t? Let me ask it this way…
Do we view grace as a – Concept to be Grasped
Rather than a – 24/7 Gift to be Accessed?
As I thought about the topic of grace throughout the day, I began thinking about people I interact with on a daily basis; people who I know and love deeply. I also thought about certain people I know from a distance …like some of my Facebook Friends or various ‘Friends of Friends’. And I thought about those of you who would read this blog – some that I have never even met. So many (myself included) in need of experiencing more of God’s extravagant grace.
I thought about very specific situations where I have been privileged to witness God’s grace in action. I have seen the way he has given those I love and care about supernatural grace as they walk through very difficult circumstances. I have also seen those I love try to do life apart from God’s grace. And I wonder…
Do we realize how much grace – God’s grace – changes everything?
I know this friends, God does want us to know more about his grace – NOT conceptually – but experientially – firsthand. So where are YOU in your grace journey?
- How is God using the daily events of your life to teach you more about his free gift of grace?
- How does God’s grace come into play when you or someone you know has or is in the process of losing a loved one?
- How do we give God’s grace to others that offend or hurt us?
- How we explain God’s grace to others who reject him?
- How does one grow in grace after living a life of regrets?
- How can those of us who have experienced it, help others drink from the springs of grace?
As I thought about my own life – both recently, when I needed to be reminded of God’s grace for a situation involving someone I love, and the time in my life many years ago – grace (not the theological concept – but the experiential gift) became very real to me. In other words, it moved 18″
from my head to my heart!
Many of you know my story, but for those of you who don’t… I had my first child when I was 17. You can read more about my story on my “About Me” page, which should really read:
“This is who I am but it’s not really ‘About Me’.”
I was a junior in high school with dreams and career goals and a desire to become…well someone of significance using my creative talent! But instead, I found myself overcome with humiliation, shame, guilt and remorse for having allowed myself to get into such a hopeless predicament.
But at my lowest point (during my pregnancy) I had a personal encounter with the Creator of the universe! He heard my cry for help – came to my aid – and spoke to me through his written Word (the Bible).
I was all alone in my bedroom crying in a pool of guilt and shame feeling hopeless and desperate. I could not save myself from the desperation of my own heart. I knew I was a sinner – separated from God – and I was in need of someone to rescue me from my plight. And so I began seeking God’s love, approval, and forgiveness but I soon found out that it was he who came looking for me.
“But God demonstrates his own love toward us…
that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“While I had absolutely no thought of how much God loved me – or any desire whatsoever to discover his plan for my life...he continued to pursue me.
There in my room, I opened my Bible (to a random place) and began to read this passage:
“For I know the plans I have for you …
plans to prosper you, not to harm you;
plans to give you a future and a hope.”
It was as though my name was inserted in-between each phrase…as if God himself were speaking directly to me!)
WAIT…WHAT DID YOU SAY GOD?
Let me get this right…You have all that in mind for me? A good plan? A prosperous plan? Not a harmful one filled with emotional and physical abuse? You have plans to give me a hope-filled future – that will bring good out of my sin-infested past?
I’d be fool not to sign up for that deal!
And at that moment I accepted God’s invitation to exchange my sinful messy past for his plan; a plan which I could not see, but entered into by faith and a sincere desire to want to know more about this Jesus.
But I had only begun to scratch the surface in understanding this ‘gift of grace’.
I would learn more about this grace a few years later when I turned 19. My faith was alive and growing and I was content to allow God to direct my life as I learned how to trust him and allow his plan to unfold. Honestly, I don’t think I understand as much about God’s ‘grace’ as I thought I did. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that Jesus died a brutal death on a cross to pay the penalty for not only my sin but for the sin all mankind – and I understood that I was forgiven and that his saving act was a demonstration of his grace – which was given to us a free gift. But within me there was a bit of a disconnect. So God took me on a journey – a journey that led me to my next “aha!” moment when he brought my darling Frank into my life.
I had only been a Christian for about a year and a half when we met. He became the first visible sign of God’s grace to me. But when he proposed to me, my response was something like…
“you mean you really want us?”
Okay…be honest…are you feeling sadder for me (in feeling so pathetic and unworthy) or for my husband Frank who (although he wasn’t) had every right to feel a little confused and insulted by my response? As if to say…“Why? do you doubt my love for you?”
The truth is, in my heart of hearts, I still felt as though I was unworthy of being loved. I thought I believed God had forgiven me of my past, but I had trouble forgiving myself and applying his grace to my own heart and mind. My theology of God’s grace and forgiveness was in need of some fine-tuning.
I accepted Frank’s invitation to become his bride and we were married seven months later.
Frank was my first flesh and blood encounter with what grace looked like and felt like. Frank loved me unconditionally and he loved my son – so much so that he adopted him as his own. He did not see me as I saw myself (still shamed by my sinful predicament)… No! He saw me for who God made me to be. Over time I began to see that
God was (lavishly) giving me what I did not deserve.
Until I understood grace in this light – I did not really understand the nature of grace…or the nature of God for that matter.
Then my next “aha!” moment came 10 months later, when on October 11, 1980, I gave birth to our first daughter.
True story… I ended up delivering her at the exact same hospital, on the exact same floor and in the exact same room where I delivered my son three years earlier as a teen mom. It was in that room when it all clicked for me. I was holding my beautiful daughter and thinking about what we should name her.
As I stood looking through the large window out onto the magnificent autumn hues that filled the Metropark landscape below me, God’s spirit came to me ever so sweetly and helped me finally understand what he had been trying to say all along to me. The process went something like this:
It was as though I was transported back in time – my mind was flooded with memories of being in that same room. For a moment in time, I felt like I was reliving those former feelings of being completely alone and fearful about what the future held. I then began thinking about all that God had done for me. And I thought about Jeremiah 29:11 and the plan that God told me he had for me when I was in my bedroom; the plan he said would prosper me and not bring harm to me….the plan to give me a future and a hope. In that “aha!” moment – I finally understood his grace…in my heart of hearts…as:
God’s unmerited favor – based solely upon the fact that I belong to Jesus.
I did nothing to earn it or deserve it. In fact – I had refused it.
All I had to do was simply believe God and walk with him by faith.
I’m so thankful that God’s grace is a gift that we can access 24/7!
There is no fine print for this generous gift; it’s in BIG BOLD PRINT for all to see…a free gift to anyone who is willing to humble themselves and ask for it.
…for “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”
By the way…I named my daughter “Grace” as you might have suspected or already known.
God used that little person many times to teach me so many things about his grace over the years and she continues to be a constant reminder to me of my grace journey.
(I think the joke was on me sometimes because God knew I was going to need a lot of grace to raise her!)
Sometimes I leaned into his grace – others times I didn’t. My advice? Choose grace! It makes the journey so much sweeter.
And so…my journey of grace continues.
How about you? How are you growing in your understanding of God’s amazing grace? I’d love to hear about you and your journey. What does God’s grace look like to you?
To me…grace looks like this….
If you know someone who might need some encouragement in the area of GRACE, please feel free to share this with them.
Until next time friend, embrace grace! You never know how God might use your grace story (past or present) to breathe life and hope into someone else!