I’ll tell you the truth: it took me forever to get the concept of grace.
I admitted that to a group of women at a retreat this past weekend, and when I said it out loud, that grace wasn’t anything I’d heard much about as a child and a young adult, they were visibly aghast. I felt a little bit like a failure in that moment, but what can I say? It’s the truth.
For the longest time, I thought “grace” was what you said over your turkey and gravy once a year on Thanksgiving. We didn’t talk much about grace in my church when I was young. We didn’t talk much about grace at home either.
It’s been a long, slow learning curve for me. I first heard the word “grace” repeated again and again at Brad’s church in Willimantic, Connecticut. We were boyfriend and girlfriend back then, plodding through the graduate English program at the University of Connecticut.
Brad was a Lutheran. And he was also the only guy I ever knew who attended church because he wanted to. I couldn’t make heads or tails of that. But I liked him, and I wanted him to like me, so I went to church with him, you know, to make a good impression. Brad didn’t know I didn’t believe in God, and I sure wasn’t about to mention it on our first few dates.
So there I was, nestled into that white clapboard church where all the old ladies knew Brad’s name, and I heard about grace. I heard the word repeated by Pastor Cheryl again and again. It seemed like all she ever talked about was love and grace. I figured that was her thing – I thought maybe she was a former hippie or a reformed earthy-crunchy, someone all into the notion of love and peace, man.
Fast forward ten years. Brad and I were married by then and living in Nebraska. I still didn’t believe in God, but I was getting closer. I dipped my toe (just a sliver of toenail, really) into the faith waters – slipped into a back pew every few weeks, listened to the pastor’s message and the reading.
And there I heard it again: grace, grace, grace. I even said to Brad as we walked to the car after church one Sunday morning, “What’s with Lutherans and grace? All they ever talk about is grace!”
Slowly, slowly, like cool water bubbling up from an underground spring, the concept of grace began to seep into my mind, heart and soul. It wasn’t easy, though. I swallowed down grace like sweet tea when everything was flowing along smoothly. But when I messed up? When I yelled at my kids or hurt my husband or sniped at a co-worker? Grace was a whole lot harder to comprehend then.
The fact that God still loved me, forgave me, redeemed me, even when I was my meanest, yelliest, cruelest, most hurtful self? Yeah. It took me a long time to believe that.
The truth is, I’m still working at believing in grace. I’m still working at believing and knowing in my heart that God loves me and forgives me, no matter what. I’m still trying to wrap my head and my heart around the fact that he loves me before I mess up bad, and he loves me after as well — just as much, no questions asked, no strings attached.
If you think about it long enough, the notion of grace will just about knock your socks right off.
So this big, long story? This is just my way of saying that what Jennifer Dukes Lee is doing with her book, Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval – and Seeing Yourself through God’s Eyes and her #Pre-Approved campaign and her #LoveIdolMovement? It’s good, friends. It’s needed, much-needed, and it’s good.
I’ve been working at understanding grace for a long time. And I still need to tell myself every day that I am pre-approved by Him.