Before I discovered grace, I had a strong passion about my faith. I fell in love with the Bible, I loved the stories and got excited about learning the mysteries found in the scriptures; they seemed never-ending. I became quite learned in them. I tried to do everything that I thought being a Christian required. I desperately wanted to please God and the leaders around me. I was fairly good at following the rules. In fact I was one of those annoying people who existed to make sure those around me knew what the rules were. Which is a nice way of saying I was extremely judgmental. But even with all of my knowledge and my seemingly sparkly external image nothing I did was enough. I was struggling on the inside, riddled with sin and darkness, and utterly confused. I could see Christians around me trying to overcome their problems yet unable to and I hypocritically judged them. I was told Christianity could set people free. What was wrong with us?
Then I discovered grace. At the time I was in a lecture at a family counseling course I was doing. I had heard of the word grace before this lecture, but it always seemed to be in conflict to the rules of behaving in a holy way. All I knew about it is you shouldn’t use it. When you failed to be ‘holy’ then you were misusing grace. I don’t remember much about the lecture other than her saying that Jesus was loving and gracious. She said that in the counseling room we should be like Jesus and display His grace and love. The lecturer spoke about how grace created a safe environment for people to ‘expose’ their hidden selves; their shame and guilt. I remember being dumb-founded, the teaching was almost the exact opposite to what I knew. I knew how to follow rules and ensure everyone met them. I knew how to compare myself to others. I knew how to be judgmental. But grace, I didn’t know grace. This new revelation unraveled me. I looked back over my years of being a Christian and all I could see was all of the people I had harmed with my judgement. They had no chance of overcoming in my judgment. Heck I had no chance of overcoming, not without grace. It hurt to think I had hurt so many. I was filled with regret. My judgment just ensured people kept their sin hidden in fear of getting hurt. I made others feel ashamed of themselves in order to feel good about myself. After all I was not like them, I followed the rules. They on the other hand didn’t, which made them bad.
Not like them! Who was I fooling?! I was exactly like them! I was a sinner desperately in need of God’s grace.
Just over 3 years later I was eating every judgmental thought and word that I ever had toward another. Unable to function any more, I found myself sitting on a couch in a counseling room totally broken. I wasn’t there because I was a bit down; I was there because I was mentally ill. A very humbling experience. I was riddled with shame. If it wasn’t for my counselor who displayed Jesus’ grace and love, I would still be riddled with shame. Jesus’ grace provided a place of safety where I could reveal my sinful self. Jesus wasn’t interested in judging me; after all He already knew my sin. He just needed me to allow Him access to it. Every time I acknowledged my shame to Jesus He would forgive me, show me His love and provide a way for me to overcome. God’s grace is not God giving us permission to sin. God’s grace is the removal of our deserved punishment for our sin. Instead of hiding our sin away for fear of rejection or judgment, grace provides a way that we can reveal our sin to God and let Him transform us with His love. Through His grace I received victory over sin. Without Jesus’ love and grace my healing would never have been possible.