When I reflect over my twenty-nine years, I find many reasons why I am not worthy of grace. Even as my life and my heart have been wrecked (in the best way) by the intimate relationship I now have with Jesus, I still experience bouts of feeling so unworthy of the fact that he died a brutal death on the cross... for me.
Up to even just a few years ago, I wrestled a lot with perceiving Christians (not all, but many) as being hypocrites and self-righteous. It was probably one of the biggest things that deterred me from seeing Christianity in a favorable light. I grew up believing in God and knowing the story of Jesus's death on the cross for me and every single one of us, but that's all it was to me– a story. It wasn't until a few years ago that it all became so incredibly real and personal to me. Everything finally began to click as my eyes were being opened in the months I spent actually reading through the Bible and desiring to learn more about who God is– His nature, character, all of it– directly from the Source.
But even in my own deepened walk with Christ, feelings of shame and imposter syndrome creep up as I wrestle with the thought of being a hypocrite myself and with questions like "Who do I think I am?"
But there’s the point. It’s not about me. But all about Him.
Grace is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as "unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification." It is something that is given freely, without our ability to earn or lose it based on what we do or don't do.
In a Bible study I am in right now, we just got to the story of Jacob in the Old Testament . Jacob's name literally means "heel grabber"(Gen. 25:26). When he and his twin brother Esau were born, Esau was born first and Jacob came out grabbing his older brother’s heel. As adults, Jacob tricked Esau into giving him his birthright (which in this context and culture belonged to the older brother). Jacob also stole his brother’s blessing by deceiving their elderly, nearly-blind father to give him the blessing and not to Esau, who it rightfully belonged to. Jacob was always trying to get ahead. Always manipulating. Always deceiving.
And yet, God.
Later in the story, God met Jacob where he was and gave him a new name, Israel, and a new identity. He was transformed into a new creation and God blessed him. Despite his shortcomings, God still used Jacob to bring about the line that Jesus would come through. There are countless stories of people like Jacob– deceptive, manipulative, self-centered, not-so-great-in-our-eyes, just a mess– in the Bible. People who make mistakes and lots of them, who have weaknesses, who walk over people and put themselves above others– and yet God still loves them, pursues them, and works in and through them. He showers them with undeserved grace. He showers US with undeserved grace.
I am so aware of the ways I have fallen short in my walk with the Lord and the ways I have missed the mark in pursuing holiness or in setting a good example to others– believers and non-believers alike. And man, it's not fun to think about.
The enemy loves it when we dwell on shame. On mistakes made and identity misplaced. He is a mastermind at knowing our patterns and what trips us up. Most importantly, he loves that getting stuck in shame keeps us from seeing and believing the abundance of grace and love that Christ has for us.
And so, we have a role to play. A responsibility to show up for battle– knowing the battle has already been won on the cross– ready to fight rather than letting the adversary take free sucker punches left and right. And we fight first by knowing that we are not the sum of our mistakes (or accomplishments, for that matter). Our value and our worth are not based on our performance, income, appearance, social status– you get the point. Our value and our worth and our identity must be rooted in the knowledge that we are precious, beloved, fiercely loved children of God who sent his only Son to die an insanely painful, excruciating, devastating death for us.
And as wonderful and feel-good as receiving this grace is, it’s important to acknowledge that the purpose of this grace and loving kindness is ultimately to turn us towards repentance and towards God. To humble ourselves and acknowledge the parts within our hearts that are not pretty and to invite God into those places so He can bring restoration and healing to your heart and soul.
Romans 2:4: "Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?" (ESV)
And just a quick word on repentance: Repentance is the expression of sincere regret or remorse about one's wrongdoing. When we repent, we take ownership over our actions and how we have turned our back on others, on ourselves, and on God.
To close, my prayer is that you may come to know, receive, and experience the absolutely boundless grace and love that the Lord has for you. That you may shake off the things that lead you to feeling unworthy and instead believe there is abundant life in store for you. Our God is a good God, and He does not withhold good things from His children.
"For the Lord is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly." (ESV)