For my entire life, I have been raised in and attended church. I couldn't really tell you too many specific bible stories or Sunday School lessons because there have been SO many and they kind of just run together. One of the major things I can recall vividly, that has pretty much stuck with me my entire was the story of Grace. I am certain many people will agree, but it seems as though Grace was taught in such a way that you were almost too afraid to use it for what its purposes and intentions are for.
Now, this is not due to one specific teacher or sermon I heard, as a whole, the church so desperately wanted to keep people on the straight and narrow (rightfully so) that the church didn't do a great job teaching about grace and how it was FOR the Christian, not just the non-christian sinner.
After all, we're all sinners saved by grace; however, to me grace was really for the "real" sinner because it's just not okay for you to mess up once Jesus begins living in your heart. Stay with me here...
The church is made up of people, human beings, that are imperfect and trying to do their best. In doing so, it is so easy to focus on something so much that you kind of miss the point.
Fast forward 15-20 years, and the church as a whole has and is doing a much better, I will even say a great job on talking about and teaching on grace. I will insert, I do see some taking it a little too far; but they will stand accountable for that. Back to where I'm going with this. I have struggled for as long as I can remember with failing, messing up, and doing things wrong, that I lost my focus on the healing and restoration that comes in grace.
Several years ago, it was as though the light bulb went off and I understood that grace was for ME. If I blew it, I had a hard time letting God forgive me because I messed up and did not deserve forgiveness. (Please know, NO one has ever told me that, this was my own interpretation of how I let the enemy rob me in this area - super important to note!)
After Chris and I married, it didn't take too long for the "disputes" to make themselves at home, if you know what I mean?! We both had a lot baggage we brought with us in our marriage. Not against each other, just in our own personal lives. As we started unpacking that baggage over time, there was a lot of forgiveness that took place. It was easy for me to forgive him, but forgiving myself and getting over my issues was not so easy.
It was a struggle. Again, grace. It's for me in my marriage? That just wasn't a concept that I had.
Fast forward a few years and we become parents. That baggage I brought in with me when I got married, yeah it came with me as I became a mom. Days and months, and years of feeling like I've blown this thing as a mom kept piling on.
Back I go to asking for forgiveness because I sincerely knew I had to ask for it, but forgiving myself, and accepting forgiveness...grace for me, again, it wasn't really a concept.
I can vividly remember the day that I became aware that grace was for me. Grace was there to encourage me, usher in mercy that I really didn't deserve; but because God loves me he offers it to me. Grace was there for me to lean on heavily when I blew it and couldn't find all of the pieces to put back together. Grace was there for me to slowly start unpacking my baggage and leaving it at the altar. Grace was there for me to remind me that everything is going to be okay. Grace was there to soften my somewhat harden heart. Grace was there to carry me. Grace was there to erase those things that I couldn't stop reliving and playing out in my mind. Grace was there for me to rest in when my heart was weary.
Grace was there to stand in my place. Grace doesn't remove the consequences of our actions; but it loves us through them.
Being a mom, has ashamedly brought out the worst of me at times. When push came to shove, those years of hiding from grace just made their way forward and if I thought I needed grace then, did I ever need it now!
Grace has also taught me, that when you stop picking out the flaws in everyone else, God shows you the areas they need grace in their life, too. Not because of their wrong doings, but because of the hurt inside. Hurt they haven't dealt with, refuse to deal with, or feel as though they aren't worthy. I'll even go out on a limb a say maybe it's because they refuse to believe in it.
Grace exist for you in every aspect of your life. It's not just when you say that first prayer of forgiveness. It's not just when you know you need to ask for it. It's not for just when you feel kind of guilty. It's for covering your multitude of sins. It's for covering those moments when you blow it. It's for the moments when you just can't get it right. It's for those times when you move forward 3 steps and back 5. It's for moments, when you didn't do anything wrong, you just need encouragement.
When you let Grace work in your life, the way it was designed for, it will be easier for you to extend grace to those around you.
One fear I always have if I'm flying somewhere is my luggage getting lost, stolen, or sent to another state/country. It's a scary and almost naked feeling to not have your belongings with you. In life, carrying your "luggage" around with you will only hurt and destroy you, after all your problems aren't meant for you to struggle with.
"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." John 16:33