God’s grace doesn’t always look the way I want it to. Sometimes I want grace to come in the form of human comfort and compassion when I have fallen short of others expectations. I want grace to be about absolving me from my pain and sometimes even from the responsibility to love better. I desire mercy for my failures quickly, but can lack empathy at the pain my own sin can cause. More often than not, I am learning to see that it is about me seeing and accepting I am a sinner, so I can see the extent of grace given me, and as a result extend this grace to those around me. It’s not about me beating myself up and lingering in my own self-hate. It’s about me surrendering myself and those I love, over to God, daily.
Grace in this first month of the year has very much been about surrendering. Surrendering who I think I should be, what I want and most of all, embracing the unknown. I felt like I entered the year stuck, and still very much giving others power over my emotions that only God should have. I was still fighting God for control. Much like repentance, I am learning being surrendered is a daily decision to set my mind and heart on who God is, how he loves and relates to me, and how I will respond to His love.
To change the world, to allow Him to use me to help others and accept others for who and where they are in life I must surrender my “shoulds” – what I think should be, who I think they and I should be. My “shoulds” are fueled by my own pretenses and ever-recurring sin of trying to make my life work without utterly depending on God.
It is only by Grace that I can deliberately open my heart to the truth about myself, my weaknesses and strengths, in a way that doesn’t make me feel powerless, but instead, give me the power to surrender control daily. Without this understanding I buckle under the immense pressure to be a light to the world and choose selfishness.
“Come as you are”, said He. But I love you, so I will not let you stay there. I will move you, and it will hurt, but I promise I won’t leave you.” –sm.c
When I read this quote it read like a synopsis of Psalm 66 to me. This is who God is in every moment of my life when I embrace His grace. This perspective allows me to accept what is, not what I think should be or wish was true.
Psalm 66 10 For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. […] 12we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. 13 I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfill my vows to you—“
The fires I go through are sometimes of my own making. I am called to accept responsibility to love others with strength and compassion. Each day I am learning what this really means. What it means to battle against God and others quietly, in pretense. It’s when I want people to see me as godly or wise not for God’s glory but for my self-worth. When I try to make my life work without pulling Him into every moment, thought and decision.
1Tim1:12-14 “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”
I too can be full of ignorance and unbelief. I can be ignorant when I refuse to face my true self or refuse to push past my shame to search and know my heart. My unbelief is exposed every time I reach for control or succumb to fear instead of trust in God. Grace allows me to be open about my failures to love. To stop trying to impress others with my ‘godliness’ or ‘wisdom’ and instead share my weaknesses and failures. I still fear that people will reject me when I do this but by Grace I can lean into God’s love to see the motives of my heart, work through them and trust God.
I saw a quote the other day that read “this season is beautiful and not knowing is important. It’s in the uncertainty that I open my hands before the Lord and ask for help.” And this is where this season of grace has begun for me, in the unknown, accepting His grace and asking for His help, daily.
1Tim1:15-16 “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”
My lack of acceptance of the extent of my sin came from a wrong view of what accepting my sin really is. It is not self-hate or self-condemnation, it is facing with courage my failures to love others and myself the way God desires me to. It is a failure to return to who He is, through the cross and how he loves me and relates to me. It is my failure to respond to this love. The enabling force behind my new honesty is God’s unfailing love. He loved me when I was still ignorant, before I chose to brave self-awareness with Him as my healer and redeemer. When I am open about my failures to love, and I will fail, daily, I surrender to Him. This opens me to give grace instead of judgment and choose trust in the unknown.