A while back, my therapist asked me who my favorite actress was. My response? “Diane Lane.” I think she is the most beautiful, modest, graceful woman, on and off the set. I have thought about that question from time to time and discovered that most women I have admired throughout the course of my life seemed to share one common trait. Grace. Make no mistake, it’s not that I felt like I had anything in common with them. I am the quirky, messy, loud, artistic type with the ability to lose everything I come in contact with, fall, or spill on myself at the most inappropriate times. I am anything butgraceful. After meeting the puma in Grace In a Glass Case, I felt compelled to dig into more research of this word to explore a deeper reason as to why I become enamored and inspired by anything that exhibits such grace.
By His Mercy, Not My Merit
I thought that if I could learn how to carry myself as the women I admired, I would “look” more graceful. My faith journey is teaching me that there is so much more to grace than what we look like on the outside. It is a gift we must connect with on the inside for it to reflect outward. Through my research, I have learned many things about grace. One is that it’s sole producer is God. It is because of His mercy that we are able to receive grace. I grew up thinking that if I performed good deeds and went to church, God would bless my life. Last Sunday in church, our pastor made it very clear that grace is unmerited. We cannot do anything to earn it. God decides how, when, where, or why we receive it. Why is this important in MY understanding of grace in others? Because, just as I explained sin in What If…., the same applies here. I had to be able to recognize what grace feels like in order for me to appreciate who is responsible for giving it and the effort it takes to reflect it. There are many ways that God sheds grace on my life, but I haven’t always been able to recognize it. Now that I am spiritually mature enough to see grace as it actually is, I feel the need to share what it looked like before and after I was saved.
Damn This Life Of Mine
I truly wanted to believe that somewhere along the way I got the short end of the stick. That somehow, of all the people in the world, God pointed at me and said, “Here! She’s a hot mess, so give her the messy life!” For the entire first half of my life, it seemed I just couldn’t escape drama. Everywhere I turned, there was something happening! If I wasn’t fighting with family, I was fighting with friends. I was the troublemaker. I “stirred the pot,” as some would say. And I won’t deny that! I was always caught up in something I was not supposed to be. Looking back, honestly, that’s all I really knew how to do. I didn’t understand what the word surrender meant because I never had a safe place to practice that skill. I didn’t understand how to be a peacemaker because I grew up in a family that constantly argued. So, as I got older, fighting was a part of natural daily life… with everything and everyone. I have been blessed with many gifts, but if there were a degree in drama, back then, I would’ve been top of my class. Yet, I look back and remember how I longed for peace and quietness. I was starving for softness. Inside, I was dying for a place to submit so I didn’t have to pretend to be so strong anymore. It was catastrophically exhausting. Since I couldn’t find that safe place in my surroundings, I created created my own. It was one that could’ve completely ruined my life.
When I got out of high school, I was desperate for approval. I became involved with a troubled group of people that were quite heavy into the drug scene. With these friends, I experienced things that no young girl should ever. I had every type of drug at my disposal, and, since, I finally felt like I belonged, I happily participated in disposing of it all, almost nightly. I was so naive as to allow heavy amounts of traffic in and out of my apartment on a regular basis. It was normal to have about 10 people hanging out with music blaring, without a care that there were other tenants residing in the same complex. It was all fun and games until one day, I received a knock at my door. When I was expecting the arrival of a group of friends armed with jello shots and the evenings party favors, I was surprised to find a group of undercover agents at my door with guns and a search warrant. The following weeks were a nightmare. Though I was not charged with anything illegal, my “friends” accused me of setting them all up to get out of trouble, which I had not. A few weeks later I was jumped by 3 girls in a nightclub. Grace was present during that time of my life. If it weren’t for the grace of God, my life would not be what it is today. In the pit of deep, dark brokenness, he has continuously shown undeserved mercy on me. He pulled me out of a shame stricken life when I had no idea what he was doing. Little did I know, in those days, grace came in the form of physical and legal protection.
He Who Is In Me Is Bigger Than Anything Formed Against Me
When I started to get my life back together, another part of me began falling apart. You see, I had a child at 17 that, much to my regret, I didn’t raise. I wanted to… more than anything, I just wasn’t allowed. I wanted to speak the truth about my sons father, but it was forbidden. The adults in my life made parenting such a constant fight for 3 years, I didn’t stand a chance. I became so distracted with fighting for my right to be a parent, that I never learned how to be his mom. When I gave up, I met the aforementioned group of friends. I ran so hard from the guilt and shame of circumstance that I couldn’t stand the sight of my own shadow. Things began to change after spending a year away in my early twenties. When I returned and started cosmetology school, my confidence slowly started to resurface. When I met other young girls going to school and raising their children alone, I began feeling like I could do it too. When I mustered up the courage to go for it, I was faced with resistance, again. What I wanted and needed didn’t matter. Taking my son from my parents would turned into an 8 month court battle where I wasnt even allowed to see him. I was reminded almost daily that I could not measure up to what they were to him. And even though I won, the battle never ended. He’s 20 years old, and, still, today, we have not been able to repair what was taken from us. Regardless, God’s grace was always with me. He always believed in the real me. God offered His unconditional love and mercy, even when my earthly parents didn’t know how. When the world may fail us, He is our shelter. Through Him and only Him are we capable of experiencing grace when the world tells us that we are worthless. His grace is the means to our salvation.
For I Know The Plans I Have For You
Through it all, God saw something bigger in me. Around the age of 22, I attended a faith renewal weekend retreat with my brother and sister in law. During this retreat, I received my first call. It was during an hour of silence where I sat alone in an empty church and opened up the missalette to find a gospel reading where Jesus told one of the apostles to “be a shepherd to my flock.” He instructed them to go out into the world and teach the word of God to the people. Later that evening, when we broke into our last small group of the day, the exact same scripture had been given to my group leader. Even though I wasn’t obedient, I have always had a special relationship with the Lord. I knew what He was telling me, but I was too broken and ill equipped at the time to follow through. I didn’t know it at the time, but God’s grace was in full swing. He, as He promised, was working it all out for the good. Make no mistake. When it seems like all God’s grace has overlooked you, He is there, like a candle in the night. Whether you believe it or not, He is busy making a way for you.
Last week I had an incredible experience. I attended my first women’s small group at church. For the first time ever, I was in the presence of Godly women who seem to hear God’s messages just like I do. I had always been scared to speak of His messages because I thought people would think I was a lunatic. But these women showed me that there are others, just like me, who experience God’s word on the same level that I do. It is because of God and God alone that I escaped a life of spiritual imprisonment. It is because of God’s grace that I have risen from the ashes of my own hell on earth. It is because of Jesus Christ that I have an image of humility to look up to.
Grace In Its Many Forms
I am learning that grace comes in many forms. It comes to rescue when we are falling off His path. Grace comes in the form of helping human hands. It floods our lives in the most difficult times. God sheds His grace on us when He feels we need it most. I look back and recognize His grace the second my life flipped upside down! He was transforming my life to prepare me to be a completely different person…. a true woman of faith. An imperfect, (still sinful) woman of faith… but one prepared for His plan and humble repentance. He was preparing me to give every distraction up for the sake of His call. He was preparing my future husband. He was preparing our marriage. God’s grace is still grooming our entire household to take on the responsibility of ministry.
We can experience God’s grace every single day. When we are ready to receive it, we begin to resonate the same grace outwardly. We cannot just appear to be graceful. Grace’s only source is God. When we connect with Him, our lives are transformed by it. We appear more graceful when our lives are directly in contact with God and God alone. He is the water of life!
If you are having a hard time recognizing God’s grace, pray this prayer with me:
Dear Heavenly Father,
I come to you today to ask for your forgiveness in sin. I am an imperfect sinner, Lord, but I am ready to be transformed by your grace. Thank you for making the way for me through your son Jesus Christ. I ask for your help in seeing the presence of your grace on my life, Lord. Walk with me and guide me along your path while I study and live out your Word. In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.
Sweet child, be free.