Growing up in a Christian home, I was very familiar with the term “grace.” I understood it on a deeper level when at age 8 I accepted Christ into my life. I called my grandparents to tell them and exclaimed that I felt like a butterfly! In my childlike faith, it was that simple. In some ways it is easy to define, and yet God’s grace is beyond what my human mind can comprehend.
I have experienced God’s grace over and over again, but there was a time when I experienced it through another person and it changed the projection of my life. And it gave me a tiny glimpse of the magnitude of God’s continual grace.
I was a senior in high school and it was springtime. My plan was to graduate in June and begin college in September, but I was struggling. I had developed an eating disorder the spring of my sophomore year, heading into the track season. I wanted to lose some weight to run faster and it spun out of control. Two years later I had made progress but was still in treatment.
Spring was always a hard time of year for me as it was the season when all of this started. It would intensely trigger many of the unhealthy thoughts still ingrained in my head. So, I was not following my treatment plan very closely -- cutting corners and being less than honest with those around me. My weight had been slowly decreasing and my therapist had been keeping an eye on it. I made up lots of excuses, and those worked for a while. But the day finally came when she called me out -- no longer believing my lies. I could continue to try to deny it all I wanted, but the scale doesn’t lie. I confessed. I cried. She told me that if I kept this up, I could forget about college. She was not comfortable discharging me from treatment unless I could prove I could follow through consistently. I cried more. College was my dream. High school had been hard for me and this was my new start.
I was especially upset when she said this was serious enough to call my parents. She called my dad at his work. She put him on speakerphone and we talked about this setback. His voice was so sad as he said he would leave work and meet me at home. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed.
It was a long 45-minute drive as I cried and contemplated the lecture I would get, the disappointment he would convey, the anger I deserved. My dad is a patient man, but I knew I was testing the limits of that patience. About a half mile from my house I passed him running on the road -- he was a runner and used that a stress relief. I continued home and anxiously waited for him. Those minutes seemed to take forever.
He came in the door and my tears began again. I braced myself. He sat down next to me and hugged me. He looked at me and asked if I wanted to go to college. I said “yes.” He asked if I knew what I needed to do for that to happen. I said “yes.” He said “then do it.” He assured me that he and my mom loved me and would help me, but it was up to me.
He showed me love and grace. I did not deserve it. I deserved his disappointment, his frustration with my lack of ability to do something as simple as eat, his anger with the amount of money treatment was costing. A lecture/confrontation might have made a difference for a while, but it would not have brought about lasting change. Behavior changed by guilt never does. It would have made me feel worse than I already did, or ignited defensiveness and anger. It would have gone in one ear and out the other. But the grace he showed me spoke volumes. It was the message I needed.
For 2 years I had gone through the motions of treatment, but I was not doing it for the right reasons. This conversation with my dad was a turning point for me. I had to decide what I wanted and get well for myself. After that day I still struggled, and sometimes still do, but never relapsed again. That is the power of grace.
Luke 6:36 says “be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” We need to be discerning, of course, and there are times when consequences and discipline are needed, but we also need to be in prayer and ask for wisdom for the instances where God is calling us to have grace with those around us.
Sometimes a simple word speaks louder than a long lecture. Encouragement instead of rebuke. An extension of forgiveness before it’s even asked for. And we might not always know the impact our grace had (my dad doesn’t even remember that interaction!). We have received such an abundance of grace from God -- even when we continue to make the same silly mistakes. With God’s help, let’s try to take a fraction of the grace God has given us and show it others. You never know how God might use you to help change someone’s life.
WILLOWDALE WOMEN’S SUMMIT
March 30, 9:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
What does it look like for a woman to be a disciple who makes disciples in 2019? Join us for a day of worship, teaching and discussion, as we explore Jesus’ heart on the topic and leave with practical tools for fostering meaningful disciple relationships. This event is designed for women to “go deeper” in connection with God and each other. Our goal is that women will be encouraged, a bit more equipped, and empowered to truly live as disciples of Jesus in their everyday lives. Click here for details and to register.