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.