Gracious Grace

I’ve been reading Judah Smith’s book ‘Jesus Is____’ as of late and I have to say, it’s brilliant. I am biased though because I have a deep appreciation for Judah’s way of preaching. God revealed him to me last year when I was going through a dark patch and he does have an aura which speaks to my heart. He’s a brilliant example of a man of God.

The book explores the various things that Jesus is, e.g. love, merciful, etc.. In a chapter of his book he discusses grace and how Jesus is grace. Grace is one of those aspects of faith which had surrounded me my whole life but until I was out of my comfort zone and the word was being tossed at me I had to investigate what this grace thing is. I suppose for each person grace has a different definition. Even for me the meaning evolves and fluctuates depending on what’s going on in my heart.

For now I’ll define grace as knowing and acknowledging that Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and his love for us, means we have been forgiven our sins eternally through his mercy. Your definition may differ from mine and that’s alright, why not share it in the comments. While I have this definition God’s grace has been blooming for me fairly regularly and sometimes I even realise it.

I was reading ‘Jesus Is____’ yesterday and I had a bit of an epiphany. Remember that sin I said I struggle with? That one sin which pops up when I least want it and I’m foolish enough to slip away from holding Jesus’ hand. I slipped again last month and looking back I felt nothing, I didn’t feel guilty, I didn’t feel happy, I didn’t feel dirty, I didn’t feel clean. I just felt average, and that terrified me. Usually I end up feeling disgusting and filthy. I feel guilty and hated and dark and like I’ve just dragged Jesus’ name through the mud.

I was so used to condemning myself and making myself feel like trash. I would pull an Adam & Eve and try hide away from God because I just wouldn’t feel worthy. I felt like he would strike me down at any moment because I was wasting his time and wasting oxygen by praying for forgiveness. I hated myself as much as I hated my sin.

Reading about grace yesterday made me realise something. Over the past few years my relationship with God has grown and improved so much. Heck, I was praying at the bus stop and I’m sure I made the people around me very uncomfortable but I didn’t care. There’s still a lot of growing room and I look forward to the years to come, but looking at the old me and how I am now my heart is glad for how far I’ve come. I’m still only an adolescent spiritually but even that is a blessing because I’m not an infant any more.

What was revealed to me was, even as a mere adolescent, God’s grace is constantly on my life and in my heart. My self-condemnation was me not believing I had grace. I was stuck in the idea that I had to force myself not to sin to make God proud. I’m not saying not trying not to sin doesn’t make God proud but I was trying out of my own power and not letting him lead me. When I sinned and I didn’t feel anything I believe that was because I knew I wasn’t condemned. I was disappointed in myself but I knew God would be with me and I didn’t need to worry about it. He doesn’t condemn me so who am I to condemn myself?

I don’t know, I guess that’s just a little testimony for me. Before I couldn’t comprehend the concept of grace or why it was there. When I was merely aware of it I believed it just meant I was forgiven and still needed to do the right thing to make God happy. Now I’m at a place where I try to give Jesus the reigns and I follow him. Sometimes I fall but he holds out his hand every time and like a child I run to grasp it.

Grace and peace, brothers and sisters.

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Lessons from God: For Love and Sushi

Our God never ceases to teach us lessons and I’m grateful for each lesson he throws our way. I’ve been struggling with how to love people in spite of the things I know about them. So my gracious God stepped in.

One of my housemates is Brasilian and she invited me to join her and her friends for homemade sushi. I’m trying to be more social and outgoing so I agreed to go (I mean hey, free sushi!). I was particularly nervous because I would most likely be the embodiment of the language barrier. Unfortunately not that many people speak Shona in comparison to Portuguese. I agreed to go and before we left I prayed for the night to go well and I put it all in God’s hands. The first test was walking through the streets at night in the dark. I continually had to remind myself that I’m protected by the Holy Spirit and nothing can touch me. I think I passed that test…I hope.

When we arrived at her friends house they were all very warm and welcoming to me, even though I was the only one in the house who didn’t understand Portuguese. One of the guys, who’s English was more polished than some of the others, made it a point to speak to me and make me feel welcome, and even once the whole house was filled with foreign tongues I felt good.

As the night progressed I began to observe each member of the group and my mind slowly ticked into realising that all the males were gay.

I’m sorry, it wasn’t until I left my home after 18 years of no exposure, that I actually met and interacted with people who were openly gay. I still remember when I met a lesbian in one of my classes and I panicked. Internally my cells were tensing and all my hormones were going into flight or fight mode. With time I’ve calmed down but loving people who are different to me in this way has been a challenge I haven’t given up on; I’ve struggled and I’ve prayed about it. I still felt uncomfortable when I made that realisation though, but I tossed it aside and reminded myself “they’re just people”.

With time I forgot and became too engrossed in trying to crush everyone at Mortal Kombat and tasting various authentic Brasilian drinks prepared by Brasilians. I felt pretty privileged.

When it was time to leave, it was back to walking through the dark streets.

Just before we left the first guy who had welcomed me looked at me with such intensity and made me promise I’d protect his friend (my housemate). There was no reason for him to be worried for her and he said it in a joking way, but the way he said it and the way he looked at me made me feel that I really wanted to be his friend. I could genuinely come to love him.

Once we were on our way suspicious rustling made me jump and grab on to my housemate until I was sure it wasn’t a person or a dog or a zombie coming to attack us. Further on the glow of a flashlight in one of the on-campus daycare classrooms made me even more panicked. My housemate laughed, calling me a scaredy cat but I wanted to protect her more than myself. Don’t ask me why, that’s just how I am. Again I had to remind myself of the power of God’s Spirit walking with us.

After a severe internal struggle I decided to call the security services and report what I’d seen. One of my mottos in life is ‘Evil prevails when good men keep quiet’ and my heart just wouldn’t let me rest until I had reported what could have been a thief potentially darkening the lives of the children who play in the room almost everyday.

As I lay in bed, reflecting on the night I couldn’t help but smile. I’d been so nervous and God had just gone and protected me, given me a great night and helped me step one step closer in loving all my neighbours. The people I had felt uncomfortable around were the ones who made an effort to assimilate me into their group. My shaky faith had had to grip on to the only one who always protects me. Then I had the audacity to wake up on Sunday morning and tell God that I was waking up so early for him. That night proved how much God doesn’t need me but I run to him every time.

I genuinely think he shakes his head and chuckles at me most of the time.

I’m grateful for every lesson though, and each time he catches me when I stumble. I’m going to continue working on love and I’m going to make sure my mustard seed of faith moves mountains and makes them dance.