I’d like to start with sharing with you my journey to God’s grace. Not just grace for salvation, but His grace that is woven into EVERY moment of my life. It has been a long, beautiful, and sometimes VERY hard journey, but God is so faithful. He never stops pursuing me with His passionate love. And I am still at the beginning of this walk with Him – which is pretty exciting! So let me share with you how it all began for me, bringing me to where I am today. And then I would like to spend the coming days Dwelling on Grace with you. So here is my story of grace…
The word “grace” was always just another salvation-related church word that we threw around, too often without knowing much of its meaning. What I did know for sure was that I said the right prayer as a young child, saving me from my deserved place in Hell and securing for me a spot in Heaven. As I grew older, I came to understand the word grace as “getting what I don’t deserve”. Of course, I still felt the pressure to do all the right, Christian things to make sure God was pleased with me. My view of God was so incredibly small & skewed! With great excitement (and more than a little pride for all the good I had done throughout my childhood), I headed off to Bible college. Here, I experienced the first phase of my grace awakening. As I dove into study of the books of Romans, Galatians and Ephesians, I quickly realized that I was pretty far off base in my performance-focused Christianity. For the first time in my life, I began to see myself as God sees me- fully accepted & beloved because of Christ.
GRACE UNDER PRESSURE
I left my two years at Bible college with great excitement & fervor to share all that I had learned with whoever would listen. Since standing up in the middle of the Pastor’s sermon to offer my newly-enlightened perspective wasn’t an option, I began looking for places to weave grace into any conversation. Maybe someone would ask me to lead great women’s Bible studies or take over Sunday school classes… I had a lot that I felt I needed to share. Over the next few years, my enthusiasm settled into a daily rhythm. It wasn’t until 6 years later, when my husband & I stepped off the airplane onto the mission field, that I would get my next BIG dose of teaching on God’s grace- that came in the form of hard living. It seemed as though the harder we tried to get our new lives going in this very different, uncomfortable country, we just couldn’t get it right. One day, my husband told me that he was ready to pack it up & go home. No point in wasting the money of people who sent us there to spread the gospel if we couldn’t make that happen. I was sort of relieved because I was absolutely miserable! Then I saw this change in my husband that I knew I wanted to have as well. It took a few more months, and a LOT of hard days, before my heart was prepared for the same lesson. I lay in bed under a mosquito net, sweating profusely & rubbing my pregnant tummy and cried out, “I can’t do this!” Hubby turned to me and said, “Exactly.” We both knew I was on the brink of understanding what he had come to realize 3 months prior. That God did not ASK us to do this work, that He didn’t WANT us to try and that there’s no way that we could. Christ wanted to do the work through us. How would this all work out? We still had so many more facets of grace to learn.
We came home from the mission field, not sure what would come next, but assuming that we had a pretty good idea. So to recap, I knew that God saved me, that He loves me completely, and that He wants to do this work through me… Ok, got it! I spent the next couple of years trying to let God work through me in my new phase of life… motherhood. My physical challenges in Africa were nothing compared to the emotional & mental challenges that came with having babies! I began to see that I needed to learn about God’s grace in a whole new area of my life- one that fills up MOST of my life. What kept me going many days… the long, monotonous, pull-your-hair-out days… was the community of moms I had around me. (Yet another example of the grace I was receiving.) It was encouraging to know that God loves me & that I am secure in my life in Christ, but I still felt constant defeat, failure, frustration, loneliness… can you relate? What was I missing? How could I lose that feeling of understanding & victory so quickly? My time overseas had been uncomfortable in many ways, but I had found joy & peace, and had come to enjoy my life there. Now I was back in the familiarity of America, with every comfort I could imagine, with a wonderful little life… and I was once again miserable. WHAT IN THE WORLD? Maybe I had begun to understand grace, but now it was time to start learning what it looked like to WALK in grace.
It seems that God was teaching my hubby some of these same lessons- but in his own areas of ministry and life. Not long after returning from a ministry support-raising trip, my husband (who was raised on the mission field, and planned to stay there until he died) sat me down and told me that he felt God was telling him it was time for us to change our direction. God had alternate plans to ours. Our 30+ year life goals were going to shift. Surprisingly, I did not freak out! I could see a fire & passion & excitement in his eyes that was contagious. Within 4 months, we were packing up, closing the missionary chapter of our lives, saying good-bye to friends & coworkers & our church family, and we were headed across the country to a new life. One that included no set plans. No job, no house, no real details… only that we are passionate about sharing the message of grace wherever we can. Because I have a feeling that you can relate to some part of my story, and so you just might be encouraged by what I have to share. I’m going to dive into many aspects of grace & what it looks like in our everyday, real life. Stay tuned! It’s going to be an awesome journey, and we’ve only just begun!