Grace has been a common theme in my walk with the Lord over the past several weeks. I have found myself, on an almost daily basis, asking for the Lord's grace. The verse that has really stuck in my mind is:
But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.
When necessary, I have found myself replacing the word "sin" with words like "weakness," "hormonal craziness," "messy house syndrome," etc.
So it went something like this, "Where my hormonal craziness increased, grace increased all the more."
I could be wrong, but I don't think the Lord will mind my little change. :)
But then the labor and delivery happened, and the topic of Grace has gone from a pot simmering on the back burner to a brazenly boiling stew at the forefront of my mind.
A couple days after the delivery, I wrote this in my private journal:
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
God is the One who made all things, and all things are for his glory. He wants to have many children share his glory, so he made the One who leads people to salvation perfect through suffering.
"Our sufferings may be rough and hard to bear, but they teach us lessons which in turn equip and enable us to help others. Our attitude toward suffering should not be, 'Grit your teeth and bear it,' hoping it will pass as quickly as possible. Rather, our goal should be to learn all we can from what we are called upon to endure, so that we can fulfill a ministry of comfort - as Jesus did. The sufferer becomes the comforter or helper in the service of the Lord."
-From Unto the Hills by Billy Graham.
These are pretty difficult passages to swallow coming off Maple's delivery. I have to admit that, as the pitocin drip started on the second day, and I faced a difficult drug-free labor (though I had no idea how difficult it would really be), I was angry. I had prayed so much, and so many people had told me they were and would be praying. Why wasn't God answering me? As in so many times in my life, it felt as if everything opposite to my prayers was happening.
Ever since the delivery, as I have fought off feelings of overwhelming panic just from the memories of the event, I have questioned why the Lord would have me go through that. Where was His grace?
But today, these passages are changing my heart.
Lord, how can I glorify you during these days following delivery? All I want is for you to be glorified and for me to be 'made perfect through suffering' like Jesus.
As I have grappled with that question, "Where was His grace?" I realize that perhaps I don't really know what grace is. I pray for it often. I use the term frequently. But it's possible that I really don't have a clue what I'm talking about.
But, as always, the Lord is faithful to answer even the toughest questions. Here is my journal entry from today:
"You cannot earn my blessing. If you are blessed with a gift, it is because I have planned to give it to you all along. If you do not receive a blessing that you have asked for, it is because it was not (and is not) in my original plans for you. (Psalm 139) It is as simple as that."
All my life, I have heard a simple definition of grace: "receiving a blessing I do not deserve and cannot earn." But I think it is finally starting to sink in.
And this revelation ('If you do not receive a blessing that you have asked for, it is because it was not and is not in my original plans') brings me such freedom and release to worship. Difficulties and unanswered prayers are not punishments, designed to make me pray harder or read my Bible more often. They are simply evidence to confirm that God is sovereign and He alone knows what is best for my life.
And the thing about grace is that, since I cannot earn it, my worship and love is not required. I don't HAVE to worship Him. I'm not FORCED to love him.
Love is no longer a currency by which I can begrudgingly purchase His blessings.
And because I don't have to worship, I am free to CHOOSE to worship... and to love.
There was a time in my marriage when I truly believed that my cooking, cleaning, and wifely duties were all required in order to earn my husband's love. I believed that if I failed in these areas (as I often did) he would love me less.
The thing about that belief is that it left me no room to CHOOSE to serve him and love him. I did it out of obligation because, if I didn't, he would withhold his love (or so I thought).
In our five years of marriage, through my husband's gentle patience and my Heavenly Father's healing touch, I have learned better.
I know my husband loves me whether the house is spotless or falling apart, whether dinner is perfect or burnt to a crisp (or, more often, nonexistent). His love is not based on what I do for him, and so I am free to serve him of my own volition, or not.
And you know what? My house is cleaner. My meals are more carefully planned and orchestrated. And my heart is happier. Because these tasks that once were only my 'jobs' by which I earned the 'salary' of a husband's love, are now a gift that I can give him to show and express my own heart.
How much greater is the love and grace of the Father! It cannot be earned. I cannot purchase it. Therefore my love, attention, and worship is mine alone to freely give or withhold. The 'duties' of my relationship with Christ are now my gifts of joy and love by which I can express my heart.
That, my friends, is the gift of grace.