I am an expert on grace. Nay. I am an expert on needing grace. The funny thing is that I’ve only realized that in the past couple of years, and it took an incredible journey into a dark pit in order for me to come to grips with my humanity.
You see, I know how to do this Christian life, and do it well. I am a worship leader, a mentor, and I know all the right things to say and do. I am equipped with the tools necessary to find and walk in healing, and do lead others through it as well. Jesus and I are tight.
The problem for me was that I didn’t see myself as someone in need of grace because of the way I have lived my life. When I considered the cross and what Jesus did there, it really didn’t occur to me that I was sinful enough to need a sacrifice like that. Of course I never would have said this out loud. I wasn’t even fully aware of the issue until two years ago.
Two years ago we left the first place I’d ever felt at home in 10 years of marriage and moved to a new city where I knew absolutely no one.
I was devastated to say goodbye to friendships and to uproot ourselves for the umpteenth time; I was lonely and weak. If there is anything that is true, it’s that those two words, “lonely” and “weak” are like an alert siren for the enemy’s attack. Temptation entered my life in a way I never dreamed was possible for me, the good little “praise team girl”.
Temptation came in the form of an online conversation with a man who was not my husband, and I let it linger. I let it toy with me, and I even reached out for it a little because it had the façade of comfort, value and escape.
You know how they say women are most beautiful in candlelight? It’s because the shadows hide the flaws in our skin, the wrinkles around our eyes. The same is true for temptation. Darkness blinds us to its warts and scales.
The proverbial lights were turned on and I looked at what temptation was doing to me. I was appalled and I fought with all I had against it, but then the lights would dim and temptation’s appearance suddenly became shiny and enticing again, and I would admit that I was just too weak and lonely to do the hard thing: turn the lights back on.
I danced with temptation in the darkness and in the fleeting moments of daylight, I saw my own warts and scales for what they really were. Soon, not even the light was enough to keep me away; I chose to ignore the ugliness that had become me. The conversation fed my starving and wounded soul.
I knew there was only one way out, but I was too weak to stand on my own two feet and expose myself. I was terrified of the repercussions. Thankfully, the conversation ended, but not by my doing. For a long time I was ashamed of that. Ashamed that I wasn’t strong enough to dig myself out of my pit. Recently, the Lord revealed to me what had really happened in that process through a hard parenting situation. We had to allow our son to struggle and attempt to come through a trial on his own before we stepped in and rescued him out of it. The Lord showed me that this was exactly what He had done for me.
I learned so much in the midst of my failure, I uncovered so many lies that I believed to be true about myself and about my heavenly Father’s character. My faith grew as I struggled through the worst failure of my life. It seems so contradictory to say in the midst of my sin, the Lord was teaching me and growing our relationship. But when it got to the point where something had to be done and I was at the end of myself, the Lord did it. He swooped in and rescued me from my worst nightmares and He taught me the most beautiful lessons about grace in the process:
Grace is for everyone.
All you have to do is spend a few minutes reading any story in the Bible and you will see that the heroes of our faith were some of the most wicked, most sinful human beings on the planet. Peter denied Jesus. David committed murder in order to be with a woman he lusted after and knocked up. Samson directly disobeyed the Lord’s commands and yet he still has a valuable place in biblical history. There isn’t anyone on earth who isn’t in need of grace, and there isn’t anyone on earth who isn’t allowed to have it, including you and me.
Grace never shuts off.
The Lord often speaks to me in images. When I was working all of this out, he showed me a picture of how I viewed grace verses how grace actually works. In my perspective, grace was received by standing in a line with a big red bucket in front of a wall with a button and a spout. I walked up to the spout, put my bucket down, pressed the button and an allotment of water gushed into the bucket. That was my ration of grace for the day.
In His perspective, however, there is no wall, line, bucket, or button. There is a spout. Instead of receiving an allotment of grace and standing in a shame-filled line of people, we all walk around with spouts hanging out over our heads. The water gushes over us in a constant flow with no way to turn it off.
Grace is given, and therefore must be accepted.
This is pretty straightforward. If someone wants to give you a gift, you have to open your hands to receive it. Yes, it flows over us as believers all the time, but are you walking around with an umbrella to block the flow?
Once I recognized that I needed grace, suddenly I realized that I didn’t deserve it, and then I balked against it. I didn’t want to burden Jesus with the severity of my sin, and I didn’t want to taint His presence with it.
The truth is that the cross is our gateway into His presence and at the cross, our burden of sin is removed. Once I got that into my head, I was able to freely receive the gift of grace that God wanted me to have. I was able to walk with my head held high into His presence.
Put the umbrella away and receive the gift of grace that is being poured over you.
I will tell you that there were definite consequences to my actions. My marriage had to go through a very painful restoration process. I had to earn trust back and I had to be honest about things I never wanted my husband to know about my heart. I had to tear myself down in order to be built back up again. Ultimately, however, the gifts that I received as I chose to turn my heart toward obedience, grace and forgiveness far outweigh anything I suffered in the process of shining a light on my sin.
Grace is for you, friend, even though you don’t deserve it. It will never be taken away from you. All you have to do is accept it.
Julie Presley co-founder of Dauntless Grace Ministries, is an author, worship leader and lives in Texas with her husband Rocky and two boys, Salem and Josiah. Other loves include Netflix originals, red red wine and Cadbury Mini-Eggs. She blogs candidly at www.juliepresley.com about life, writing and the healing work the Lord continues to do in her life.
Illustrations and hand lettering by Sojung Lee.