When you hear a word spoken over and over again, the meaning of that word tends to get muddled. Unfortunately, the word "grace" used to have that connotation for me. For a time it felt like a buzz-word, used in prayers and worship songs. But I didn't understand the meaning. The power of grace was often lost in a sea of Christian-ese, usually spoken by myself.
My friend Chris, a Bible teacher and missionary, gives an simple definition of grace that I love:
I love this definition, this picture of Jesus towards us. He is abundantly kind, though we don't deserve it. He lavishly gives favor, though we could never earn it.
After I graduated from high school, I desperately wanted deeper friendships with other women. I asked the Lord to give me a friend, and He answered. I became fast friends with a sweet girl, and I even got to be a small part of her journey of meeting Jesus. We were close, she was in my wedding, and I was so grateful for her friendship.
Brian and I got married and moved to Hawaii to join Youth With A Mission, just 5 weeks after our wedding. We quickly fell into the consuming rhythm of full-time ministry. Life got busy, I grew selfish with my time, and several of my friendships fell by the wayside. This sweet friend who God had gifted me with years before was going through a lot in her life. And I, in my self-righteous desire to minister to others closer in proximity, dropped her. At a time when she needed a friend the most, I got too busy. Over the next few years, our friendship became basically non-existent. I failed her in many ways and was not an example of God's steadfast, faithful love for her.
Earlier this year, the Lord put this friend on my heart. I began to feel sick with shame about the way I treated her. The Lord, in His goodness, convicted me of the way that I had so quickly chosen other things over our friendship, and how I had hurt her. I was a wreck about it. So I sent her an email. I apologized, asking for her forgiveness, and if there was some way we could re-kindle our friendship. I wasn't sure what to expect. She could write me off, and I deserved nothing more than that.
I was floored by her response.
She showed me Jesus. She showed me grace. She gave me such un-deserved kindness, and completely unmerited favor. She blessed me, spoke well of me, and desired to continue our friendship. And though I shouldn't have been surprised by her response because she is a Godly woman - I was taken aback. She so quickly responded in love. Though it probably wasn't easy, she simply forgave. She even gave me permission to share our story here :)
Thank you friend, you know who you are. You have fleshed out my favorite definition of grace. You have reflected Jesus. Though we'll never deserve it, He is unswervingly kind. Though we could never earn His favor, He furiously pours it all over us. When we completely fail him and crawl back to apologize in our shame - He lifts our chin, meets our gaze, and responds with "I'll take you back. Over and over again, I'll accept you. I love you." And He helps us stand, brushes off the dirt, and re-kindles our friendship, like nothing ever happened in the first place.
Thanks for reading my first real post in this series on grace called "Freedom Found Me." I call myself a recovering "earn-aholic", trying to enjoy God's grace instead of striving to earn it. Jesus offers freedom, through His grace - and we don't have to go searching for it. It's right out there in the open. In fact, His freedom found me. Click the picture above to see more of the series!