“There is a war between guilt and GRACE!”
The other day, as I walked into our bedroom, I noticed these words written on the notepad next to the dual recliner where my WW sits. They come from the song by Matthew West, “GRACE WINS“
Lately, I’ve been pondering the effects of GRACE in my life. I’m beginning to realize that I have greatly undervalued what GRACE DID, what GRACE does, what God wants GRACE to do in, for and through me.
Matthew West continues his song with these words; “GRACE WINS!! Every Time!! For the woman at the well, GRACE WINS!! For the beggar on the street, GRACE WINS!! For the prodigal son, GRACE WINS!!“
This morning’s “Daily Verse” from “YouVersion” was Psalms 139:23,24
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” NLT
This morning, I’m saddened to think how many times I’ve prayed that from a place of guilt and shame, standing (or kneeling, as the case may be) before God but seeing him as my Judge. It makes me want to run away. Sometimes I do.
This is not the prayer of a guilty man waiting to hear sentence passed for his guilt and shame. It’s the Q posed by the prodigal son to his Faithful Father at the breakfast table the morning after the party as they enjoy steaks leftover from the fattened calf and eggs the servants gathered that morning from the free-range hens in the yard. (Luke 15:11-32)
It’s the Q from the heart of a recovering, wandering son who has once again been embraced by “Abba-Daddy”
Let me see if I can put this in my own words as I picture myself sitting at that table:
“Dad, I came back yesterday because I knew you are a man of compassion. All my life I’ve seen how you treat your servants. You’ve always treated the men and women who work for you better than most of my friends were treated by their fathers.
Last month, I remembered that about you. Someday, maybe I’ll tell you where I was and what I was doing when I remembered, but I think I’d rather just forget about it. But let me simply say that I woke up in the blackest, darkest hole of my life.
Then I remembered!
Dad, I came back to be your servant. I came back to sweep the dung out of your stables. I came back to clean the hen house on my hands and knees. I came back to…
NEVER in my wildest thoughts did I think I would come back and be your son!! I fully expected to grovel. I fully expected to spend the rest of my days trying to pay penance for the way I hurt you. But you… You!!! Dad, You put the family robe around my shoulders. You embraced me!! You put your ring on my finger. You brought out the finest wine, and Oh! Wow!! This steak…!!!
Dad, (by the way, it feels strange to call you ‘Dad’)… Let me take this moment to ask you, from the depth my heart, with all the gratitude I can manage; “Teach me. This morning, Dad, search my heart; test me and show me my hurtful ways. Daddy, I want to spend the rest my life letting you teach me how to be your son.”
THAT is the war between guilt and GRACE. The battle in my life between guilt and GRACE is fought at the gateway to the homestead. Because of my guilt, I hesitate to respond when He calls. The Father beckons me forward. I hesitate. The Father says: “Come, my son, all is ready. For you. I’ve been waiting. For you. Too often, I’ve turned away. In shame. “I’ve been watching every day. For you. But… I’ve done all can can do. For you. Unless you come home. The Choice is yours. I chose you, but I cannot make that choice FOR you.”
BECAUSE OF MY GRACE, THE DOOR IS WIDE OPEN FOR YOU, MY SON! COME HOME!!
I was yakking with my friend Jon yesterday afternoon. During our conversation I used a phrase that’s been on my mind lately. Then I remarked: “That sounds like the title to a blogpost! I better write it down before it slips my mind.“ Well, we continued talking and I didn’t, then last night couldn’t recall what I had said.
Funny, in our conversation, we’d mentioned that both our memories aren’t what they used to be. I like to blame mine on age. lol
Anyway, this morning, it came back to me!!! Yay!! …but I digress. Q – can U get sidetracked before U’re even on track? So, anyway… Moving on….
At Celebrate Recovery, we learned that we are only responsible for cleaning up OUR side of the street. If I hurt someone and need to make amends, I am only responsible for my apology, not for their reaction to that apology. (unless I make it worse by the words or attitude I use) I can choose to make “Living Amends,” which means I learn from their hurt and choose to treat them differently because of it.
Likewise, If I am hurt by someone, I am only responsible for my reaction. I can choose to forgive their action without any evidence of change on their part. Part of my responsibility may include establishing boundaries to protect myself in the relationship. Learning to set boundaries means I need to understand what is on my side of the street (fence) and what is not.
In so many ways, this has made my life easier. I am powerless to control other people. At the beginning of this understanding, it felt incredibly selfish. “I am only responsible for ME?”?!?!? That was so contrary to how I had always lived.
“Hi, my name is Jim. I’m a grateful believer in Jesus, but I struggle with co-dependency and compulsive people-pleasing.”
The C.R. small-group 3rd guideline states: “We are here to support one another, not FIX another!” I’m learning the difference between support and fixing. Between influence and control. Between talking and listening. (OK, I’m still working on that one) I’m learning that I have Influence over other people, but I can lose that influence in direct proportion to the amount of Control I exert.
This understanding is revolutionizing my relationships. With other people. With myself. Even with God! When I first heard the 3rd small-group guideline, my reaction was: “Really? REALLY?!? D’ya mean it’s not my God-Given Responsibilty to FIX Problems I see in the lives of Others?”
Gradually, I’m coming to realize how much I was playing God in the lives of Others. I’ve seen how much I was focused on what I perceived to be the failures of Others instead of their Value. This new understanding is leading me to be more accepting of where and who they are instead of what and who I suppose they should be, do, say and think. As I release CONTROL, I’m recognizing that I’m having a greater INFLUENCE.
In the words of that great Mayberry philosopher Gomer Pyle, SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE!!!
Wow! This is NOT where I thought this was going to go when I started this post. Where’d all THAT come from?!? What I had in mind is perhaps a major result of this process. Perhaps I needed to say all that in order to better understand this:
THIS thought is what has been percolating in this cyclonic mind of mine the past few days –
FROM GOD’s SIDE OF THE FENCE, EVERYTHING HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE!
ALL THE CHANGES NEEDED IN MY RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM ARE ON MY SIDE OF THE FENCE!
Now comes the Surprise,Surprise,Surprise;
Just as the veil in the temple was ripped in half from top to bottom when Jesus said from the Cross, “It is Finished,” John 13:30
THE FENCE HAS BEEN TORN DOWN!!
He’s pitched a tent in Ur back yard. He’s sitting in Ur living room. He’s sleeping in Ur spare bedroom. He’s sitting in a chair at Ur dinner table.
But He’s the most gentle and respectful house guest U’ve ever had. He only goes where he’s invited.
It’s up to YOU! He longs to be more than a guest. He wants to be FAMILY!!
P.S… U don’t have to clean house, U don’t have to make the bed, wash the windows, scrub the floor, do the dishes, paint the walls, clear out the sheds, trim the hedge before U let Him in.
For most of my life, I did not understand that He could/would live in a broken heart. Then one dark(est) day, Surprise, Surprise, Surprise! He began to heal me from the inside out.
He continues to surprise me.
I grew up singing: “I surrender, I surrender all!” We were encouraged to completely commit the rest of our lives to Him – NOW! Today!!
That may have been just my perception, but that’s what I kept trying to do.
Tried, couldn’t do it. Wanted to. Kept falling down. Didn’t know what to do with my failure. Wanted to quit trying. Did…, for awhile.
Now I know. Now I (am beginning to) understand – Better!
God takes what we can give to Him TODAY and waits patiently until tomorrow becomes today and we get to do it again. And… again, the next day! And…
In the meantime, He asks us to just take a walk.
With Him. With His Son. Jesus. His Holy Spirit goes too.
- “Pay attention, son. I have something important to tell you.“
“There is now therefore NO CONDEMNATION, (Anger, Impatience, Rejection) toward us – from Him.”