I was terrified to look at her in the face. I had spent my entire life disappointing her and more than anything I wanted to make her proud. I imagined the constant dull ache of worry and disappointment eating away at her insides little by little. One false move and the flesh eating emotions would accelerate their decomposition causing the dull ache to become a roaring fire. I could already hear the harsh words of criticism watering the shame that had been buried inside me. I knew I deserved them. I knew better than this! What kind of example was I setting for my son? I walked in my mom’s room, tears stinging the corners of my bloodshot eyes.
“Come here,” my mom said. I buried my face into her side and lost it. I had made a horrible mistake. I had gotten arrested. I had been irresponsible, selfish and reckless. And I just knew that my mom was going to let me know how bad I messed up and what a disappointment I was. But I was completely wrong. Instead, she rubbed my back as I uncontrollably sobbed tears of self loathing into her lap. She told me how much she loved me. She told me it would be ok. We talked about why it happened and what lesson I could learn. And even though I still felt shame, her love and understanding gave me hope. It gave me strength. In the moment, when I expecting disappointment, instead I received love and kindness.
That is grace.
Grace is one of those super duper Christian words that you hear thrown around all the time. If you grew up in church you have heard the phrase “but by the grace of God” wrapped up in hundreds of sermons or tacked on to the end of every testimony given by Sister Martha. Even if you didn’t go to church, almost everyone can sing the verse “Amazing grace how sweet the sound…” in their sleep. But most people fail to truly grasp the meaning of grace. They fail to recognize God’s grace in their life. Yet understanding how His Grace is working is essential to knowing who He is and who you are in Him.
Furthering the misunderstanding, people often confuse grace and mercy. My favorite definition differentiating the two is that mercy is when God doesn’t give us what we do deserve. Grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve.
Let’s go back to my example, had my actions harmed my mom or if she had been in the position to punish me for them, her kindness would have been a display of mercy. My wrong doing was not against her. My actions did not harm her or anybody for that matter. I did nothing to her to require forgiveness from her. Her ability to give me room to make a mistake with out judging me for it was gracious. The following are examples of people following in Christ’s footsteps and being gracious in everyday life:
- a stranger paying for your food at the drive through
- a coworker covering your shift
- not writing someone off because of their mistakes
- giving people a safe place to be honest.
To better grasp God’s constant grace in your life and how to be that example, here are a couple principles for understanding it.
1) You don’t have to do anything at all earn Gods Grace.
You don’t have to kill yourself counting your wrong doings and comparing them to what you’ve done right. Grace does not work on a point system. You don’t have to clean out your bank account trying to buy it. It is free. Simply because God loves you, He gives you his grace. “And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” Romans 11:6
2) It is through grace we are saved and forgiven.
We don’t deserve salvation. The wages of sin are death and every one of us are sinners. Some may think “but I am a good person”. That may be true. But have you ever even had a thought about harming another person in a moment of anger? Have you ever had a lustful though about someone who is married? Have you ever lied? Cheated on a test? Cussed your boss out in your head (or if you’re about that life to their face?) All sin. Every bit of it. BUT DON’T WORRY! You don’t have to have fear being punished. God understands the temptations in our world and forgives us for our mistakes. He even factors in out inevitable mistakes in His plan for our lives. What a GREAT God. It was in His grace he sent His son Jesus to die for us and cover our sin. Through His grace, you are saved and forgiven and all you have to do is believe it. “For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 “No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”Acts 15:11
3) We are made more like God through His grace.
God didn’t just forgive us for being sinful and leave us here to be the same sinful, hot mess. The bible says we are justified. That means not only are we forgiven, we are made righteous (morally right; virtuous.) The more time we spend trying to get to know Christ and being intimate with Him, the more we become like Him. It’s kind of like when you’ve been dating someone for a long time and you pick up their mannerisms. Or you and your best friend have the same catch phrase. Same goes with you and God. He has made you righteous, like Him, because of his grace. And again, all you have to do is believe in and seek Him. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1-2
4) His grace is enough to get you through the tough stuff
Bad things happen and people make mistakes. But no matter what it is that you are facing, God’s grace is there to help you push through. Say someone is mistreating you and your initial reaction is the desire to yell or curse at them. But you pray or just walk away and take a breath. That’s God’s grace in your weakness. If you are struggling to lose weight because you ab.so.lute.ly can’t stop eating pizza but you are able to fight off the urge to buy Domino’s for dinner, that is also God’s grace in your weakness. What is even better is that His grace is enough to get you through even the toughest situations. Job loss. Grief. Illness. He is more than enough.
“But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”2 Corinthians 12:9
When I take the time understand these principles I can see that God’s grace is a constant, ongoing never ending force in my life. It is literally by His grace I am able to put one foot in front of another. And the feeling I get when I think about it is that warm, gooey can’ stop smiling feeling that radiates from your core all the way through your veins. Knowing God’s grace is constant makes me feel desired and safe. It makes me feel unconditionally loved. And I am forever grateful.
P.s. Also, for more on grace the word is mentioned in the Bible well over a hundred times! Flip through the scripture and see what stands out to you.
For more from Kristen visit her website callmekristen.com