I open my Bible day after day and wonder. I read an article about His grace and mercy -- how it saved a man from addiction and sin, how it brought hope to a man condemned for murder, how it brought healing and forgiveness to a marriage scarred by adultry -- and suddenly I am so thirsty for it, hunger for it...I know I need it desperately. I turn page after page of the Book, seeking for the only words that can comfort me and give me hope.
I share with a friend that I am desperate for that grace, that forgiveness and blessed relief that can cleanse my soul and make me new again. I hear "How can you possibly need grace? What have you done that's been that bad? You're just busy." I guess on the outside, I look normal. I'm a wife. A mother. A member of the community. I go to church. The me that most people know seems okay. Everyone knows I am not perfect. I'm a little quiet at times, mistaken for shy in some situations. I have ideas that bubble forth that seem interesting. But internally I wrestle with myself. Almost daily. There is sin there. I know there is. Being a generally "good" person cannot hide it.
Not when I consider that there is no "sin scale" next to God. He does not measure a little white lie as a mere nothing and then measure taking His Name in vain as something far worse. No. The Ten Commandments are equal in value. God is perfect. He cannot live with sin. Not even what most people would consider something trifling. Sin is sin. It blackens the soul, spots that can only be removed through His Son, who gave His life to wash those specks and blotches and thick dark stains with the beauty of His blood.
It started in the Garden, when the serpent appealed to Eve and she and her spouse neglected to be obedient to the One who made them -- who blessed them with all kinds of beauty and treasure in that Garden. One tree was forbidden. Was it a test of their love for Him? Or merely a test of their obedience? Or was it a combination of those things? We should look to obey BECAUSE we love Him...Not because we have to. Because He did give us the freedom to choose...But Adam and Eve chose poorly, tricked and tempted by all the lusts of the flesh that we all struggle with daily. They were blinded to His Creation when they gave in to discontent, focusing on what they could not have rather than all of the things they could have.
It's easy to grow discontent when your main "job" is one that does not always produce immediate results. Being a stay-at-home wife and mother is harder than any corporate job could ever be. There are so many roles to embrace, not all of them "fun" or "interesting". I'm more a creature of creation than a creature of habit. I prefer to create beauty -- crafts, words, baking, anything -- than succumb to the drudgery of cleaning. It's mundane. Even when it gets nice results. But it's not my gifting, not my strong point at all. And we have a large family -- eight people in one house. That's a lot of meals, laundry. Cleaning. Hours of homework help. Juggling schedules to try to spend time with everyone.
I know it's been done on larger scales and smaller scales, but this is our scale. We had talked dreamily years ago of the large family we would have. And God knit together a wonderful family for us! Five adopted children first. Beautiful, healthy children. With emotional issues and some learning issues. Then one biological child. A happy child. Ironically the one who is sick most often. And two babies after that who did not have the chance to be born, but who we lost through miscarriage. It's been rough. I question and cry, even as I try to accept. And I lose my temper. Sometimes quite easily. It's hard to see immediate results in parenting. Most things you do for your children won't be recognized until they are older. It's a lot of work. Some people say it's a thankless job. I wouldn't agree with that, but it's definitely not one that always produces immediate results or immediate gratification. And I struggle with that. I like to feel appreciated and I even enjoy being thanked for what I accomplish. But...I don't do everything I should do in a day. And I stumble in my efforts to feel like I belong overall. I feel awkward when I talk to other women. Some of them seem to juggle their careers and their families quite nicely. Some of them do one or the other, but not both. I just never know what to say when someone asks how I am, because I think most of the time I go out of my way to step out from what I think I ought to do. But what I ought to do and what I actually do are not always the same.
I've discovered something. Finally. I wish I'd known it earlier in life. The world says that I can have it all. I know that I cannot. The world says that I can and should expect -- even demand -- "me" time...But that's not necessarily true. If I really want to embrace the role that I've been blessed to have - and often take for granted - I need to be selfless. To rise when I might otherwise sleep a while longer. To stay in and get things done around the house when I might otherwise go out and shop or sit at the bookstore or a cafe somewhere wasting time. To save money when I might otherwise squander it on something for myself. To forego the cozy chair and good book so I can help with homeschooling or homework or just participate in a family night activity. To run children to practices, games, friends' houses or even school, if the three who attend public school miss the bus, instead of staying in my nice, warm house. To forego a nice steak dinner for two out at a fancy restaurant in order to feed the whole family on our limited budget. To choose to bend to others' desires in myriad ways when I might otherwise choose to put myself first...
When I choose me above others, I am not putting Him first. I am neglecting the Greatest Commandment -- to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself." (Luke 10:27). To live this out -- to put this into practice daily -- means being able to be self-less, even if the rest of the world is encouraging me to be self-ish.
And this is where I fall short so many times! The need for His grace, so that I can pick myself up and walk rightly with Him, is so evident, so crystal clear. And for that I am ever so thankful! Because it wasn't always clear. There were days when I didn't consider that I was walking outside of His commands, even while I was neglecting the one thing He was calling me to do -- to give up myself willingly, lovingly even, and pour all I had into serving others. And not just my own immediate family...There is a whole world of hurting, lonely, bruised and battered people who need His love brought to them through tangible means, and I had not realized for so very long -- for too very long! -- that I could be the one to carry that blessing, to lift up my brethren, to offer the message of hope and redemption, to show compassion and point toward the Cross as the ONLY WAY to find life...
No, I was too busy being judge and jury toward others who I felt did not merit my time and attention. I was too busy rushing to please myself through whatever means -- a shopping spree, "me" time...other things that consumed my thoughts and then my actions. The adversary tailored his trap just for me...He knew I had been pampered and spoiled and therefore expected certain things to go my way or I'd cry foul and get easily frustrated and give up my walk...I hate that he was so right...
Which is why His grace is something I crave. I cannot get enough. And the amazing thing about grace is that the more you experience it, the more you want to share it with others. You finally start to become the selfless person you were intended to be...Instead of hoarding that last piece of chocolate cake so you get your fill and fair share, you want others to taste of it, to experience the richness of it...To crave it for themselves and therefore seek it too. You find yourself open to His prompting to smile at family, friends, strangers...To give more generously of your time and talents and even possessions. To let go of the clenched fists so that your hands are open to the blessing. To want to turn your life into a gift for others because of His gift to you. To live the way He intended -- loving the Lord God and your neighbor. With your whole heart, no longer reserving any of it for yourself but offering it as a sacrifice of praise to Him, the Creator who gives grace. Abundant grace. Amazing grace. Merciful grace. Loving grace. Grace!