Isn’t it beautiful the way God uses people in our lives? One of my biggest worries as I write this blog is that I will run out of things to say (Those who really know me are laughing right now, because I never seem to run out of things to say…). As I look ahead and pray for topics, I am always scared I will end up looking into the deep abyss and there will be nothing there. But again that fear is not from God and he always delivers.
So as I searched my heart for this week’s topic, instantly a phrase popped into my head. Embrace the Grace. Apparently I had used this phrase in my blog post on ways we limit God. A friend commented on how she loved that term. I didn’t even remember using it and had to read back over my writing (yep, God wrote that one, I was just typing). And it was probably the next day when I had another co-worker friend use the phrase as a reminder to me. I had done something pretty stupid, but we will discuss that more later.
And as I think about this week’s topic, I just love how God has been sending me messages all along, I just have to pay attention. But I also love how God is not just instructing me on this topic, He also wants ME to “embrace the grace.” Women, especially, have a hard time with this one. We hold ourselves to this uber standard of perfection, and what is worse, when we realize it is unattainable, many of us just try to fake it. Which makes life that much harder, when you know you are essentially telling a lie.
Life is a mess many times. Its chaotic and imperfect and busy, but looking back, those are some of the times we remember the most, many times because of God’s grace. So this week, I want us to start embracing the grace in the moment, instead of waiting until years later and recognizing what a blessing that moment was. I know it is hard, but I am going to share some ways I have started intentionally embracing the grace.
1) Eliminate Guilt.
Moms are the worst. We tend to feel guilty about everything. About the potato chips in our child’s lunch box – It should have been organically-grown carrots. About the amount of screen time our children get – They should always be pretend playing. About the what they get for Christmas – We only want the best for them. About how clean the house is – You never know who might show up. And I have found, as a Christian mom, I carry guilt over whether I am setting the right example for my children. Am I praying with them and for them enough? Am I modeling good quiet time practices? Am I encouraging them to do the same? Do my everyday behaviors show them I love Christ? Oh my goodness, I think we could go on and on with the things moms can find to be guilty about.
And to be honest, when I first had Brody, I thought the mom guilt was a good thing. It kept me in check. I wouldn’t work too long at school, because I would feel guilty about not spending time with Brody, so I would leave school. But then of course I would feel guilty about the things I left undone at school and sometimes I would stay up too late to finish it and feel guilty about not spending enough time with my husband.
Now that I think about it, is there ever a time when we aren’t feeling some sort of guilt? And that is just for the little things. We haven’t even addressed the “big” things in our lives we may still carry guilt for. The things that had bigger or more lasting consequences. The things we don’t even like to think about because our stomachs instantly begin to churn. Yeah, we hold on to that guilt too, like it is some kind of scar that reminds us of how horrible we are.
Well, Jesus walks around with scars on his hands and sides, so that our scars could be covered. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” He forgave us for those big sins we carry guilt for, and if we are honest, he probably doesn’t really care what our children eat for lunch or how much screen time they get, as long as we are trying to raise them to love God. His blood was shed in order for us to be forgiven. When the blood pours over us, it doesn’t miss any spots. It is all covered. It is not like the stain remover that can’t quite get all the sin stains out. No, his blood gets us whiter than snow – according to the riches of his grace. Did you see that? Riches of his grace? Does he not have enough grace to forgive us of our sins? Of course He does.
Jesus is not our problem, we are the problem. We keep holding on to our guilt, thinking we are unworthy of letting it go, thinking if we let it go, maybe we will forget or think our mistakes were okay. But that is just not true. That is the devil feeding you lies. It is true, we are as filthy rags without Jesus, but that is not what Jesus wants us to focus on. He wants us to focus on Him and all he did for us. On His love. On His grace. On His mercy. On all His wonderful qualities so that we can turn around and show those qualities to the world. If we are stuck wallowing in our guilt, whether it is little mom guilts or big time sin guilts, we can never be the example of Jesus we need to be. We have to embrace the grace to show Jesus to the world.
2) Stop Comparing!
I may have said this before and I know you have heard this before, but social media is the worst when it comes to the comparison game. We are looking at the highlight reel of someone’s life while sitting in the mess of our own lives. We get the over-edited version of their lives while we focus on all the outtakes of our own lives. So our contempt and dissatisfaction and guilt only grow. STOP! We have to stop doing that. If it means getting off social media or retraining your thoughts, whatever it takes, just stop.
I know I used to be the worst about that. I am trying so hard to be better now that I realize the harm it does. I would look at everyone I met and compare my life, my possessions, my standings to theirs. “Oh, they have so much more than me. They don’t need to bother with me,” I would think. I don’t have her hair. Or her clothes. Or her smooth pimple free face. Or her brains. You know, the list could just go on. Proverbs 14:30 says “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.” Wow! That is a rough visual and you may think a little tough, but when I look back, that is probably what I was doing (and maybe you too). I was causing my bones to rot. My insides – my heart, my confidence, my self-worth, were all rotting every time I tried to compare myself to someone else. I know you may think, “But, I am not envious.” And I wasn’t either. I didn’t want exactly what they had. Oh, I wanted them to have good things too, but I constantly wondered why I didn’t measure up, like they did.
But again what ruler was I using? My own self contorted measuring stick of worthy and unworthy? And let’s be honest, by my standards, I probably would have never measured up. Second Corinthians 10:12 tells us, “But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” And that is exactly where we are when we compare ourselves to others. We are standing there confused with rotting bones.
All the while, Jesus looks on us, probably shaking his head, because he sees a unique creation living out an ordained plan. He sees beauty that we couldn’t even imagine seeing in ourselves. And part of the reason why He sees such beauty is because He sees His reflection. We were created in His image. We were created to reflect Him. When we are drowning in our own dissatisfaction, we can’t see any of that. But when we start to embrace the grace that Jesus is reflecting on us, we can begin to see ourselves as a beautiful, specially designed creation with an individual life plan created just for us.
3) (At the risk of sounding like a Disney movie) Let it Go!
Okay, I am sorry if you all have a song playing in your head now, but maybe that will be a great reminder through the day, as the words play over and over in your head. Sometimes, we just have to let it go.
The other day I made a joke, poking fun at myself, with some ladies I didn’t know really well. Hours later, I started to worry that they may have taken it the wrong way. Every few minutes that conversation would pop in my head and I would worry and toil over that comment. I had to keep reminding myself to just let it go! I couldn’t change the way they interpreted the comment. And if I tried to run them down now and explain myself, I would probably look a little psychotic, which certainly wouldn’t help my end goal. So again, I had to remind myself to just let it go.
Or let’s talk about the time when a friend reminded me to embrace the grace. I lost my school keys. I couldn’t find them anywhere (okay this only lasted a few hours…). And I don’t lose things. I can’t stand to lose things (again if we are being honest, I don’t like to lose things because when I lose things, I lose control). But I found my school keys sitting on my desk under a notebook. Humph! As I whined over my own stupidity and unnecessary worry, she threw those words “embrace the grace” right back at me. And she was right. I have to just let my stupid, less than graceful moments go and hold on to the grace of Jesus instead.
I promise He is not up there putting tally marks beside my name every time I have a less than proud moment. And he isn’t doing that for you either. So why do we play those moments over and over in our head, trying to make the replay come out differently. Most of the time we can’t change it. It has happened, so move on. Let it go and embrace the grace. Philippians 4:8 reminds us, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” We let the flesh take over so many times. We are just as afraid of being prideful, so instead of focusing on all the good we accomplish in a day, we focus on the 15 second time period when we lost our cool with the kids or we sent a “reply all” email instead of just “reply.”
Our days are filled with countless ups and downs. We make what feels like millions of decisions a day. They won’t all be right. Some will be mistakes. Some just won’t work out. Some will be made in haste because we are worried about the 100 other decisions we have to make. So when we have a minor (or major) regret, pray over it, let it go, and embrace the grace. Choose to focus on those honorable, lovely, commendable, excellent moments. The dwelling and worry did not come from God.
And here is the final point I want you to remember when it comes to embracing the grace. Yes, it is so important to lower our self standards to an achievable level and recognize that sometimes we win and sometimes we learn. It is important for our mental well-being and it is important if we want to be used by God. But, when we learn to embrace the grace with ourselves, we are going to be more likely to shower that grace on others as well. We are all sinners, who make mistakes, who do things out of selfishness at times, who do things out of ignorance at times, who often fall short. I try to remember that when I feel wronged or slighted or even when I am down right hurt. We all need the grace of God and when we can embrace the grace, then we can spread the grace. And that is what it is all about, showing God’s grace – and love and mercy and strength and power – to others. So this week go out and first embrace the grace so that you can spread the grace.
God Bless! And sending love your way!