What if Grace Really is Amazing?
The other day, my boss sent out an email reminding all the Personal Trainers to ‘clean-up’ after themselves. I assumed immediately that it was directed solely at me. I do tend to leave equipment in precarious places, and so I responded with: ‘ I am guilty. I will do better.’ He replied to my reply with one line; ‘you really have this good Christian thing down, always feeling guilty about everything.’ I chuckled at his response, he had me pegged.
I converted to Christianity at 16 years of age. Overwhelmed by the new culture, I found myself clinging to the ‘rules.’ There were rules about vocabulary; I changed words like ‘dating’ and sex to ‘courting’ and ‘marriage.’ There were rules about entertainment; I was no longer supposed to listen to music, but to break CD’s and discuss their Satanic roots. Recreation also came with a long list of dos and don’ts; I made sure that all activities passed the WWJD bracelet test.
I later attended a Christian College. There, the rules of my faith became emphatic and extensive. The rules extended to wardrobe; I discovered that knees and clavicles caused men to sin. They defined physicality; I discerned that nothing said purity like a good side-hug. There were even rules for self-worth; I noticed that everyone had a ‘testimony’ of how wicked they were before they ‘got saved’ (the more wicked they once were, they more valuable their current status became.)
I clung to the rules, and they in turn clung to me. My Christianity was soon reduced to an appearance. I figured as long as I appeared holy and happy, as long as I said and did the right things, as long as I condemned anyone who was not perfect; than my religion was in tact.
But keeping my religion in tact, made me fall apart.
My faith became shackles as I sat unmoved on the first verse of the classic hymn:
Amazing Grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
was blind but now I see
I understood the grace that forgave me when I did not know any different. I took no offense to God forgiving the wrongs I committed before I declared my Christian faith. But if I was found, but if I could see, but if I knew the rules; than how could God find Grace with me when I failed?
Skip to the third verse.
Through many toils, dangers and snares
I have already come
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far
And Grace will bring me home
Too often, we as Christians misrepresent grace. I certainly did. We declare God’s forgiveness, His limitless covering of our short-comings, and then we declare the rules. The rules cannot sustain our faith. Grace will.
As much as I want to appear perfect, I am not. I make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes hurt those who deserve it least. They even grieve the heart of the God I claim to serve. But in those mistakes, I find the essence of grace. My religion is not defined by a set of self-imposed standards, but by the unrelenting grace of God. My God still forgives my transgressions, even when I know better. My God still rejoices over me, even when I fall short of His commands. My God upholds my future and hope, even when I jeopardize all that is good.
Grace was great when I chose to believe at 16. Grace is even more amazing now, now when I should know better and do worse any how. I couldn’t tell you the turning point, I still (obviously) have not fully turned the corner. I can only tell you that I have felt the sting of unforgiveness and it left me longing.
You will never see me sporting the cleavage and listening to Eminem while chugging a 40, but the rules are no longer the strength of my faith. The building is now the same as the foundation: grace upon grace.
Truly grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will bring me home.