Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Grace-Covered Girl

For about 9 months now I have been participating in the Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study Program.  I have to say I LOVE it.  It has been by far the most rewarding bible study program I have ever done.  I have grown more in these 9 months, then I have in my entire life.  I love that I get to engage in an amazing facebook small group, I have women praying for me, and I do the same for them.  I love that I can participate in meaningful discussion all while being a busy working mom who is also earning her masters degree.  This brings me so much joy.  The current book we are reading is called Limitless Life by Derwin L. Gray.  While I do love the book, and it has been very interesting to me, it hasn't spoken to me in the volumes I've experienced from past studies, until this week.

The chapter I am currently reading is called, "From religious to grace-covered."  I knew just from the title that this would be a chapter I would need to read a few times.  I was raised in a Catholic church.  I loved it.  I loved my first communion, memorizing all of the prayers, I had holy water in my closet, I would pray my rosary every night, I loved to go to confession, I had books on the saints that I just loved to read, etc.  I was the perfect little Catholic girl.  But I had no concept of grace, and forgiveness.  I knew that when I did something bad, I would go to the priest and I would say my prayers and all would be better.  

After I turned 9 my family started attending a non-denominational church.  It was very hard on me.  I remember being very angry that we weren't going to my Catholic church anymore.  I really mourned that change in my life.  It took me a few years to transition to where I felt like I wasn't missing our old church.  I did eventually learn to love the church that we went to, but I never lost the sense of needing to do something to be forgiven.  I love how in the book Derwin says, "When we live by religion, or works-based righteousness, we are never sure when God is please with our behavior (110)."  I was wrapped up in that for sure.  There was nothing I could ever do to know for sure that God had accepted me.

In my heart, I needed to be the perfect girl that I was expected to be.  I needed approval, and acceptance, and I thought that I had to be perfect to get those things.  I lied about big things and little things.  I was quite good at it.  I was also viewed in my community as a very good, "christian" girl, which I was....but I was hiding so much.  I was hiding hurts, and pains just like everyone around me, but I didn't have anyone to talk to about it.  All through high school, I indeed loved the Lord so very much.  I truly was excited about my faith.  It gave me so much of my identity.  I was a Christian, and that was so very important to me.  But, I had things I needed to talk about without feeling like I was letting people down, and that was definitely not something I felt like I could do.  

When I went to college I rebelled.  I was so tired of being religious, and being so good, and not having anyone to talk to.  The people I met loved me no matter what I did.  They didn't expect me to behave a certain way, or say anything perfectly.  I hid from my Christian friends, and my family.  I hid in sin, and while I felt free I was in bondage for sure.  I made so many bad choices. I knew everyday that I was missing something.  I felt in my heart so much grief when I was not in relationship with Jesus, my Savior.

But you know what's so awesome about all of this?  I got to experience God's grace personally for the first time in my life.  It wasn't even until after 9 years of marriage that I fully started to cling to the Lord, his promises and his grace.  I felt in my heart like I had been TRYING so hard for so long to live the Christian life, and failing.  I needed to stop trying.  and just let Jesus love me.  I needed to give all my anger, my pain, and my hurts to Him and let Him just love me.

"Religion says, 'Do something to earn God's acceptance, love and blessings.'  Grace says, 'Jesus has done everything so that God can love, accept, and bless you (pg123)!"  It is the most amazing and wonderful feeling to know that there is nothing I can do to make Jesus love me more.   I just need to accept his gift.  I almost added "and blah, blah blah..."  but there is no And that comes after accept God's gift of grace.  I just need to accept this gift, THE END.

Thank you Jesus.  Thank you for loving me through all of my ups and downs that I've gone through.  Thank you for your grace and for loving me at my ugliest.  It is so humbling to even begin to contemplate that you actually felt every sin while on the cross for me.  I want to live intentionally for you every day and shine for you like I never have.  Thank you for bringing me out of the bondage of religion and covering me with your grace.  Help me to give that grace to others in my life, every single day.