A couple of weeks ago I read Brennan Manning’s memoir, All Is Grace. It’s had me thinking a lot about the grace of God, and I’ve come to realize that his grace is somewhat inappropriate – it has no requirements nor restrictions. God is perfect, his people are far from perfect, and yet he still LOVES us and ACCEPTS us just as we are, with ALL our FLAWS and FAILURES. God’s grace covers everything no matter how ugly it is. The fact that he loves me and is using me for his work blows my mind.
I understand that I’m not what most people would call a dirty sinner, but I am in so many ways. I may have followed God’s calling to live in Chad for a year, but I have grumbled and complained so much since I’ve been here. I’ve told God that I’m not the right person to do this job, that someone else could teach better and not complain about missing home so much. I can be a selfish American who doesn’t want to live without her western conveniences, and I remind God of how bad I have it here every day. But his grace covers me.
I make harsh judgements about other missionaries and their work, I make harsh judgements about Chadians and their culture, I make harsh judgements about non-missionaries and their lives. I can be judgmental and self-righteous and think poorly of others to think better of myself. But his grace covers me.
I have days when I fall into the pit of my mental illness. Days when I can see the pit in front of me and I can also see a path around it. I really want to follow the path around it, but there seems to be a magnet in the pit that pulls me into it. I fall in, and I struggle to get out. Sometimes I don’t want to get out. But his grace covers me. (And I’m thankful his grace includes Prozac! Everybody say “Amen!”)
I often ask, “can he really love me and accept me no matter my failure…even the one I repeat on a daily basis?” The answer is yes. He can and he does.
I strive to be better and to do better. I try, but I fail – again and again. Then I see his grace. God’s inappropriate, unrestricted grace. It’s always here. No matter what. Forgiving me. Restoring me. Reminding me that I am sitting in the middle of his calling doing his work even though I am a just dirty sinner.
His grace reminds me that my life, my story, is not really mine at all. My life is a part of his story. His plan. To show his love. To be his hands and feet. Even with all my fears and all my failures, he chooses me to be a part of his story. Wow!
I feel humbled. I feel overjoyed. I feel equipped. I feel inadequate. I feel encouraged. I feel afraid. Lots of emotions to process.
So I keep moving forward thankful for his grace that allows this sinner to be a part of his big, beautiful story that tells the world how much he loves us…no matter what.
Ephesians 2:1-10 in The Message says:
It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.
Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.