Grace is a hallmark of what it means to be United Methodist. We love the Wesleyan understanding of grace – the concept that God loves us beyond our deserving to be loved. John Wesley explains that God’s love for us precedes our understanding that we need it (prevenient grace), makes us right with God in the moment we understand our sinfulness and our inability to make ourselves right with God (justifying grace), and continues to work in us as we grow in the likeness of Christ (sanctifying grace).
I have written more papers and sermons than I can even recall on the concept of God’s grace. Each of them, I am sure, theologically brilliant and inspiring (insert laugh here!). I have seen people pour love into another’s life when it was totally undeserved. I walked with people as they have profoundly experienced the grace of God in their lives at a time of deep failure. I have seen grace all around me in my ministry and in the lives of those I encounter. In the season following my divorce, I searched for an understanding of God’s unmerited grace in my life, a grace I am continuing to discover as each day passes.
It wasn’t until a very particular moment a few years ago that grace became more than a concept for me, more than an idea in my head. Chad did something that hurt me. The details of the hurt are not important. But I held on to that hurt for far too long. I realized that Chad could not do anything to make it right. An apology didn’t heal the hurt. Actions to “make it right” didn’t make it right. The hurt lingered, the wound stayed open far too long.
I woke up one morning and realized that if there was going to be a restoration in this relationship it had to come from me. Chad could not bridge the hurt and pain with anything he said or did. The only way that restoration could happen was if I offered him an undeserved grace, a forgiveness he did not earn. In the moment of offering that unmerited mercy, I had a glimpse of the deep love and compassion God has for me in my life. There was a joy in offering forgiveness. I was glad to have our relationship restored. It was a blessing to have the distance between Chad and me vanish. I was grateful that Chad was willing to receive the gift of grace, and we sealed that forgiveness with an embrace, which mirrored God’s desire to wrap me up and say “I forgive you.”
Think for a moment where you are in need of God’s grace in your life. What sin, shortcoming, failure or hurt lingers on in your relationship with God? Sometimes these failures linger for far too long, years and years sometimes. It does not linger because God chooses to hold onto the hurt, to remind you of your failure. Instead, I believe, God desires to restore God’s relationship with you, to offer you grace, and embrace you with a deep forgiveness. If the hurt lingers, it is likely because there is something within us that refuses God’s gift of grace: a sense of unworthiness, a desire to continue to feel the wound we have created, an inability to forgive ourselves.
Maybe this day can be different. Maybe today you can hear God wooing you toward a restored relationship. Maybe today you can truly receive what you cannot earn. Maybe today is the day that God’s grace pours into your life in a way that you can finally receive it, and it changes you forever. Maybe today is that day! I pray it is so, for you and for me!
Pastor Becky Jo