A few years ago, if anyone had asked me if I knew what "grace" was, I'd have said "yes" and then given a standard definition:
grace is God's unmerited favor.
It was a definition that had not made its way from my intellect to my heart. That was about to change.
After eighteen years of marriage and five children, everything was falling apart at the seams. It really shouldn't have been though. We had been Christians who loved God since before we married. We went to church, tithed, read our Bibles, home schooled our children, and did every other self-imposed “expected” thing. We thought we had all of our 'ducks in a row'. And though I'm sure God appreciates a nice straight row of ducks now and then, it turns out we missed a few things.
I had been taught about forgiveness, and just as important, UN-forgiveness and the dangers of it. I just didn't think it applied all of the time. I understood what the Bible had to say about harboring resentment, but I guess I thought I was the exception. I knew what God said about being content in all things, but I made excuses. Long story short, we found ourselves staring at a mountain of evidence that shouted “It's over!” To make matters worse, it was becoming painfully obvious that the whole situation was taking a very ugly toll on our children. That is the turning point that got my attention. In the midst of focusing so much on my own hurts and disappointments, I had completely lost touch with how everything was affecting them. When I finally took my eyes off of myself long enough, I was able to remember that it wasn't only about me.
I walked into my bedroom, knelt beside the bed, and in between long, emotional sobs, I repented for spending years consumed with myself and my needs and wants while neglecting those of my husband and children. I asked God to forgive me . I asked Him to change me. I asked him to undo what I had done (and not done) in my children's lives. I asked Him, if it was at all possible, to resurrect what was left of my marriage, though I really didn't think it was possible. For my family's sake, I was finally willing to put down my selfish way of thinking. I walked away from that long, tear-filled, gut-wrenching, prayer knowing that God had heard me and forgiven me. I also walked away broken and ashamed.
I knew enough about God to know that He always forgave sincere repentance, period. But there was a lot that I did not know about my Father.
What I did not know was that God was also interested in my recovery, my healing, my restoration. When I walked away from that prayer, I took a deep breath and prepared myself to deal with the consequences of my selfish years. I knew that I deserved it and I was embarrassed before God at what I had created. But God was not interested in making me pay for my mistakes. Jesus had already done that. God had another plan all together.
Within days of my tearful meeting with God, and through a series of events I could never have foreseen, I was invited to spend 4 days at a Christian Women's Retreat - free of charge. As it happens, the retreat was on a cruise ship where I would be able to spend days listening to anointed Christian women speak/teach on the very things I was in desperate need of. Four days of bathing in God's healing words without distraction. Four days of physical and emotional rest. Four days of spending time with some of the most amazing women I have ever met. God even arranged a whole evening in one of the state rooms with my friend Laura, her sister-in-law Angela Thomas (a favorite here at CWO and a speaker at the retreat), Kim Hill (worship leader at the retreat), Lisa Harper (wonderfully gifted speaker/author at the retreat), and others. It was a relaxing, casual evening with these amazing women, sharing photos of our families and talking about the amazing things God had done for them during extremely difficult situations each of them had walked through. As each one of them gave God the glory for what He had done in their lives, they had no idea what they were doing in mine. They encouraged me to keep believing and keep standing while God did what only He could do in my life and in my mess. They were quick to remind me not to look at the circumstances because I had given my situation to God and I needed to trust Him and trust His love for me. I am sure they will never know, until eternity, the healing that was going on in that state room that night.
Now take a minute to digest this. Through my own self-centeredness and insecurity I created havoc in my life, my marriage, and in my children's lives. After years of this, God got my attention and I repented and received forgiveness. As I began to prepare myself to live out the consequences of my self-imposed mess and to endure consequences I fully deserved, God showed up with oceans of grace. I deserved to reap what I had sown but God healed my kids. I deserved to work long and hard to regain my husband's love and trust but God healed what I had done to him and he jumped back in with a smile on his face. I deserved condemnation from close, Godly friends who I had shunned during my “wilderness” years. Instead they said, “We love you! Welcome back!” I deserved to work hard to find a place of healing and emotional peace. Yet God placed me on a beautiful cruise ship, surrounded by anointed women who knew what it meant to be loved by a God who is bigger than our mess. I deserved to be ashamed, shunned and suffering painful loss, but God would have none of that.
What He wanted was my changed heart. After that, all He was interested in was healing His daughter. Though he had forgiven all of my mistakes and would never bring them up again, . . . “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalms 103:12 (NAS) . . . that alone was not enough. It wasn't enough for Him until I was restored. It wasn't enough until I was whole again. It wasn't enough until I realized that I was loved by Him with an everlasting love. It wasn't enough until I understood that I was restored as His child – not as a second class prodigal, but as a daughter of the King of Kings.
I deserved rejection because I had rejected Him and His truth.
I deserved to live out the consequences of my actions.
Instead I received healing and rest and restoration and hope and forgiveness and love and joy and peace.
I did not get what I deserved.
I got so much more than I will ever deserve.
That is my NEW definition of grace!
For everyone who has believed this lie:
“Take your shame and hide! He cannot use you now!”
“The Son of God was made manifest for this purpose; to undo, destroy, loosen and dissolve ALL the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8)
It's true. It's really true.
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Labels: Darnelle's Articles, Encouragement, Forgiveness, Freedom, Grace, heart matters, Hope, Inspiration