– Part 2 –
(warning, this is very long!)
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9
I can honestly tell you that in the 30 some years I’ve read, studied and researched the bible, I’ve never understood that verse.
Quite honestly, I’ve never understood what ‘grace‘ really is.
I guess I should clarify what I mean when I say that I “never understood what grace really is“… Truth is, I know what grace is because I’ve studied the topic and taught other people about God’s grace, and I can define it as “unmerited favor” or “something we get but don’t deserve“, but in all honesty and truthfulness I’ve never fully understood how God’s grace actually works.
In my previous post I mentioned that over three years ago I broke up with a woman and after the break up that woman called me names and rebuked my manhood. Quite honestly, she gave me exactly what she thought I deserved. She wasn’t kind in her words; matter of fact, she was downright vicious and I think if she could have, she would have beat me with a baseball bat, but thank goodness that didn’t happen.
Consequently, after her harsh words of rebuke and name calling I had to take a long, hard look at myself and my life. While doing so, I realized that she was correct…I was the man she said I was, and that I had wounded her heart by not living up to the word I had professed to her. I failed to love her; and for that, she was right in giving me the scalding of a lifetime. In other words, I received a just payment for my lack of honesty with her.
She could have handled it with more tact and love, which is true, but I believe that everything happens for a reason. Those reasons result in teachable moments in life that we either learn from and grow or fail to learn from and continue to suffer. I ended up doing both.
After the break up and the subsequent scathing rebuke from my ex-girlfriend I mentioned that I fell into a tailspin of sorts and began to lash out at God.
I blamed Him for every failure in my life. I blamed Him for basically being an unloving God who didn’t know what was best for me. I blamed Him for not giving me more confidence, more courage, more strength, more wisdom. In the end I cursed Him. I cursed Him because I wanted to die. I acted very much like a toddler in a toy store wanting that stuffed animal that I was clinging to with a grip of death, but then threw a temper tantrum when my parent took it away from me and had to carry me out of the store kicking and screaming.
The point here is that I was acting in a very unlovable manner towards God and was truly worthy of death. However, being the most patient, most loving God that He is, He didn’t just leave me in the midst of my tantrum and walk away, nor did He initiate a steady stream of discipline. Instead, He just continued to love me.
He loved me by providing me with money to pay my bills. He loved me by providing me with family and friends who reached out to me in my time of need. He loved me by giving me a roof over my head, clothes to wear, food on my table and a pillow for my head.
He loved me, when I screamed and yelled. He loved me when I called Him names. He loved me when I didn’t love Him back.
He loved me when I was extremely unlovable.
And that’s when I learned what God’s grace really is and how God’s grace really works, and I learned that I really had no reason to be mad at or blame God.
We don’t always like the lessons that we’re taught in life, especially the lessons that require us to feel pain and hurt, loss and shame; but those lessons are a gift and they need to be taught for all of us to grow into the men and women we’re meant to be. Men and women who resemble the righteousness and holiness of a loving God.
What I learned from my three-year lesson of pain and discomfort is that grace means being loved when you’re at your most ugly and unlovable. When you don’t deserve to be loved.
In other words grace is love and it’s summed up in one word in the commandment: “Love your neighbor as you Love yourself.”
Before I continue let me say this, Love is NOT sex and sex is NOT love.
Sex really isn’t even a product of true, undefiled love. How could it be? After all, would you have sex with your parents? Your kids? Your grandparents? NO! – DEFINITELY NOT! and – NO! … and yet, you still love them.
Love is greater than a physical act of getting your “nasty on” with someone you met online or at a bar. Therefore, sex is NOT love and love is NOT sex.
However, what love is is an act of selflessness, kindness and humility. It’s NOT holding a grudge, NOT taking revenge, NOT casting out, NOT laying down a sentence of condemnation. It’s accepting someone at their worst and never ridiculing them or placing blame. It’s laying aside your pride and putting another persons needs above your own. Which really goes without saying, true love is correcting another person when you see that the path they are heading will lead to ruin, shame, heartache, pain and/or death.
With that said, the truth is . . . no one really deserves to be loved.
That’s right. You read that correctly.
NO ONE really deserves to be loved.
Think about how many times you have talked poorly about your neighbor? your co-worker? One of your exes? Your boss? Your parents? Your kids?
Think about the people in Baltimore, Maryland or Ferguson, Missouri who were rioting? Their actions don’t warrant or deserve love. How about the radical Islamist groups? What about Hitler? or Stalin? Do any of them really deserve to be loved?
Now consider this… You are your neighbor’s neighbor. How would they answer that same question about you?
Of course YOU think you deserve to be shown love, but don’t all those other people I just mentioned think the same about themselves?
Don’t they all believe they deserve to be loved just like you do?
The truth is, you’re not deserving of love and neither am I or any of the people on this planet, but we’re shown love every day in ways we don’t recognize.
And THAT was the lesson I’ve had to learn over the past three years because THAT was a lesson about God’s abundant Grace. His unmerited favor.
Why did it take three years? . . .
But God’s timing is perfect and He knew exactly how long He wanted the lesson to last. This one happened to take three years for me to finally realize that what He was teaching me was that I got what I deserved when my ex-girlfriend ripped me a new one, and I got what I didn’t deserve when God showed me His love while I acted like an angry monkey trapped in a cage with hornets.
My point here is that none of us deserve love because in the eyes of every human around us, we’re considered unlovable, but since grace is love and love is grace, that means we get exactly what we don’t deserve from God every day, and He shows it through the generous act of daily providing for our needs.
We have grocery stores filled with food, cars we can drive, jobs we can go to, houses we can live in, clothes we can wear, friends and/or family we can talk with and spend time with, television and movies to watch, music that we can enjoy, rain and snow for moisture, a sun that warms us by day and moon and stars that we can look at with wonder and awe at night.
Every single day we get to see and experience God’s love for us, and it’s completely undeserving because we humans really are a pathetic bunch of evil if left to our own selves.
And that’s really how grace works. Receiving something we don’t deserve in spite of who we are or what we’ve done or think.
God doesn’t have to love us. Matter of fact, none of us are that beautiful or special to be loved by a perfect, holy, righteous God who has never sinned.
What we really deserve is death and to be cast out of God’s presence for all eternity, however, God isn’t like us evil humans who are seeking dirty revenge. No, God doesn’t seek revenge the way we do. God’s revenge is controlled, unmerited, undeserving love.
Yet, because we’re so angry with our own failures and inability to achieve what we want, we blame God for not loving us. All the while it’s our pride that prohibits us from realizing that the finger we point at God in blame, has three pointing directly back at us.
And still, God sends us rain, puts food on our tables, clothes on our back, education for our minds and a path to freedom and eternal life that is so pathetically easy that many people still seek the difficult paths because they just can’t accept God’s simple way to salvation. Jesus is the Son of God. He came to His own because the Father sent Him. Jesus died on a cross because the Father was willing to sacrifice His only Son that whoever believes by faith on Jesus will have everlasting life. That’s as simple as it gets.
The lessons I learned these past three years were the most troublesome, most difficult, most challenging that I have ever experienced in my life, and yet…
I’m thankful for every moment of failure that led me to this point because I learned that I am loved even when I’m unlovable.
But I’ve also learned to Love, not only God…but my fellow man. And I’ve learned that God’s Love never ceases and that nothing…not pain, not suffering, not the world, not discontent, not a human nor any angelic being can EVER separate me from the Love of God. And that wisdom brings contentment and a very thankful heart.
Is the struggle over? Nope! And it won’t be until God decides to take me home so I can abide with Him and experience His rest, but through it all I’ll always remember that God loves this unlovable, ugly duckling and there’s nothing pathetic about that!
~ Feel free to comment now. ~ Thanks for waiting.