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But for the grace of God, go I.

I was born, raised and will die in the Christian church. It is a place I love, but also a place that can be broken. Christians are supposed to operate in love and grace, but often are overcome by judgment and it leads to loneliness. I’ve been faced with it again and again in my life. Judgment where love should be. Disrespect instead of grace.

Really it comes down to being selfish. It is easier to turn your back on someone in need than it is to help them. It is easier to say you won’t help them because it is their own damn fault then it is to say, “How can I help you get through this?” I also think that perfect people fear exposure if they get too close to the fallen.  Their own insecurities rise up as they realize, that might have been them.

But for the grace of God, go I.

I made oodles of poor decisions growing up and I continue to struggle to make “right” decisions every day. The bottom line is that only by the grace of God I never faced a life-altering change because of my decisions. I never got caught, it’s that simple. So what’s the difference between me and you? Nothing.

Absolutely nothing, except now you are paying for the mistakes we both made. The mistakes that I never got caught for. The mistakes that might have ended by death, in jail, under the influence of drugs, abuse or or or or….the list is endless. Why it didn’t happen to me but it did happen to you? I don’t know. It should have, but it didn’t. But it did happen to you and now you need grace. The grace I found myself under time and time again when things could have gone wrong, but they didn’t.

I have been presented with a lot of situations in my life where I had two choices: Judge or Love. I haven’t always chose love, I am ashamed to admit. There have been times where the sacrifice was too great for me at the time, so I chose to judge and walk away. There have been times I have been encouraged to judge. Not to soil myself with the mistakes of others.

As I get older and experience judgment in place of love, I have made a decision about the person I want to be. I don’t want to have a checklist for people before I decide if they are “worth” helping, worth loving.

I want to be the person that won’t judge you, won’t turn my back on you and won’t tell you “I told you so” or “If only you had”….. I want to be the person who you haven’t spoken with in ten years, but in your time of need, you can come to me. I want to be a complete stranger who decided that we are meant to help each other. I want to be the person who still believes in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself. I want to be there for you. In your darkest hour and in your greatest moments.

If my CASA experience is teaching me anything, it is that love, acceptance and grace can be the difference between complete failure and a successful future. Maybe even between life and death.

I don’t have to agree with your decisions, but I will stand by you as you take your next step. I will do everything I can to help you overcome and succeed. I will listen as you talk it out, work it out and figure it out. Hopefully I will one day be able to witness you live it out.

I find myself presented with more and more opportunities to extend this love beyond my comfort zone. Beyond my close friends and family. Sometimes they are people who require personal sacrifice to love. Time, money and emotional fatigue. Sometimes they are people I don’t want to love. Even so far as people who have hurt me. It would be easy to turn away and never look back. But I cannot.

In turn, I can only hope that when I inevitability make a choice in life that has a negative impact on my future, someone will be there for me. Someone will extend me grace, listen when I need to talk and offer me a helping hand to get back on course. Someone who believes that my mistakes do not define me but instead, they refine me.

I am not good enough for God’s love, yet he loves me unconditionally. I remember all of the times that it could have been me. Compassion and grace do not mean that I condone or agree with your decisions, but I do support you and I support your journey to the place you want/need to be.

We all make mistakes. Some are fleeting and some last a lifetime. Sometimes it takes a while to learn our lesson. But the beauty of grace is that God takes our failings and weakness and turns them into a beautiful story of redemption, triumph and success. His plans are bigger than ours.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord “ Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Here is to the future.

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