We hear it, preach it, love it.
But sometimes it’s hard to show it. And even harder to live it.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how God uses our own broken stories to heal others. And that in the telling we often find our own healing.
But I’ve also been thinking about the people that those stories may hurt. Or anger.
My own story started a long time ago before I even realized what a story was. Before I knew about consequences. Or forgiveness. Or brokenness.
And after many years, I understand that the some of the people who hurt me were hurting too. And some of them were just doing the best they knew how. And some of them… well, I still haven’t figured out. But I’m sure they have their reasons even if they don’t make sense to me.
Then there are the stories where I am the villain. I’m the one who divorced a husband because I didn’t realize that love was hard. At twenty years old, I still thought love was supposed to be butterflies and romance.
I’m the one who told secrets, who hurt friends, who gossiped, who hurt my own children with selfish and childish ways. Who wanted to escape reality more than she wanted to play with her children. I was the villain in those stories.
Not long ago, as I was reading Psalm 9, I found myself very uncomfortable with the verses describing the fate of “the enemy.”
When my enemies turn back, they stumble and perish before your presence...You have made the wicked perish; you have blotted out their name forever and ever. The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins; their cities you rooted out; the very memory of them has perished. Psalm 9:3,5-6
My first thought when I read the word “enemies” was for those who have hurt me. Who have wronged me in some way. But only for a moment. Because then I began thinking of the ways I am the enemy.
I wanted to rush through the verses. Because I was faced with my own shortcomings. All the ways those verses could very well be talking about me.
But I forced myself to slow down. To go back and read them again. To let me heart be broken over the things I just didn’t do right.
As I was reading I felt the Lord leading me to the next thing. And the next thing is GRACE. Yes, those verses should be talking about me. But they weren’t. And not for any other reason but the blood of Jesus.
Let me say that again. The only reason those verses were not referring to me was because of the blood of Jesus.
And the same applies to you.
Maybe you’ve messed it up big time. In ways you don’t know how to make right. Here’s the grace… you don’t have to make it right.
We can’t go back and undo what we’ve done. We can’t rewind time and be a good friend, or a wonderful mom, or a loyal and loving wife.
The only thing we can do is keep moving forward. And the only way to do that is to fully accept the position that was granted us by the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
That position is righteousness. That position is upright. That position is a child of the Most High God.
No, we’re not worthy. And yes, they’ll be those that wonder who we think we are parading around acting like we’re “something.”
But the truth is that same grace and blood that bought our freedom from all the shame and separation we deserve is available to them also. And if they can’t see God’s goodness that He would love us, change us, then maybe they can’t see it for themselves either.
God’s Word tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood. It’s against all the powers of darkness. It’s against Satan.
In accepting God’s great mercy even when we know we don’t deserve it, we accept His love. And we learn to love ourselves. We learn to love others. And we set such a great example of the things He is capable of.
Those friends I hurt- I hope they’ve found peace. I hope they’ve found happiness. I hope they’ve learned that no human can ever be 100% dependable. Because we’re flawed and we’re selfish. And even though we try to do better, we’ll still mess up sometimes.
That husband that I left- he has a new wife now. She loves our daughter and they share a beautiful son together. And I have two sons of my own from a second marriage. Sons I couldn’t imagine my life without and I wouldn’t have without that divorce.
And my children- they’re learning that grace is a part of life. A huge part. There will be many people in their lives that need it, including themselves. They’re learning not to be afraid of the messes that other people live in but to get down in it with them and gently help them up.
The wonderful part of the story is that just because you were doesn’t mean you are. Just because you were a cheater or a liar or a party-girl or whatever label that Satan may constantly try to stick on you, you don’t have to keep carrying that around. You are absolutely free to choose a new label. Redeemed. Forgiven. Free. Loved. Chosen.
Psalm 9 goes on to say: Be gracious to me, O Lord!… O You who have lifted me up from the gates of death that I may recount all your praises, that… I may rejoice in your salvation. (vs 13-14)
Rejoice in it! Recount His praises. Do not be ashamed to shout from the rooftops, “Once I was lost but now I am found!”
Loving yourself demands grace. And in learning to show yourself grace, you learn the importance of showing others grace as well. Because our battle is not with them. As Christians, our battle should be for them.
Being brave enough to say, “Look what God has done for me! He can do it for you too!” To let go of our own pride and show grace when others let us down. To trust that in our own weaknesses, His strength is made perfect. That’s what gives others the courage to show grace to themselves. To love themselves.
And that’s the whole point of this crazy life. To glorify the Father who has done so much for us. To uncover our own brokenness and say with resounding confidence, “It’s OK. He has come to heal the broken. He has come to heal me. He has come to heal you.”
Today practice that grace for yourself. Ask God what He wants from you and focus on only that. No past mistakes, no future worries. Just today. Because today we are set free. We are living our best lives. And we are trusting that God is working good out of the most devastating stories.