Hi again, Princesses! My name is April, and I’m a good friend of Katya’s. (Remember me from the Examining Love series?)
I’m so excited that Katya asked me to write to you girls again; having a little voice in your lives is an honor I don’t take lightly at all. When I found out that I would be writing about grace, my heart soared. In my life I’ve misunderstood grace in huge ways, and also experienced amazing revelations of grace. My prayer is that you will benefit from some of the struggles and breakthroughs that I’ve had as I have loved the Lord and been loved by Him.
To help you understand my journey with grace, you’ll have to know a little more of my story. After high school I started having some serious health issues, and when I was 19 I was diagnosed with a chronic illness that has put me in the hospital four times in the past four years. It has been a roller coaster – emotionally and physically – dealing with severe sickness so often.
Now, Princesses, you also need to know something else about me. I love rules. I’m a serious rule-follower. Want to know how many tickets I’ve gotten in my life? Zero. That’s right. ‘Cause I follow every rule there is to follow. They make me feel safe, like if I just do things the way I’m supposed to, I can be sure that everything will work out. It’s not surprising then that I can be pretty legalistic when it comes to my relationship with God. I tend to approach His laws the same way – if I just follow it closely enough, I feel sure that everything will be okay. That I am on God’s good side. However, when sickness returned again and again despite how closely I followed God’s rules, my faith was challenged in a seriously painful way.
I didn’t understand it. I was reading my Bible regularly, believing God’s word about healing, praying, speaking life, and basically doing any other thing you’re “supposed” to do when following God and struggling with sickness. But I was still sick. What gives, right?
Of course I didn’t admit my frustration, even to myself. There were things going on in my heart that I pushed back down for years, denying they were even there. Though I couldn’t admit it to myself yet, I truly felt like the reason I was still sick was that I wasn’t following the rules closely enough. If I could just do better somehow, I would get better. Things would be right again. I’d be healthy if I could just be a better Christian and get on God’s good side. (See how twisted my thinking was?)
I’ll never forget the night I realized that I had all of this in my heart. It was just a few days before my wedding, and I had been feeling very sick again. That night, I dreamt that I was laying in bed sleeping, and Jesus walked into my room. He walked to my bed and as He stood over me looking down, wrath and rage poured out of Him – directly onto me. Jesus was screaming wrath onto me. I woke up the next morning with the realization that this is how I saw God. In my heart, I felt like He was incredibly angry with me and that my sickness was punishment for not keeping His law perfectly.
It was scary. I prayed a ton and managed to kind of convince myself that God loved me. But it was shaky. Truth didn’t really dawn on my heart until about a week later, when I was on my honeymoon. My honeymoon ended up being two weeks of exploring Hawaii with my husband and Jesus, being set free by constant revelations of who the Son really is. For me, freedom began with God speaking this so clearly to my heart: “You don’t know Jesus. My Son is grace, and you don’t know grace. You don’t know My Son”.
After six years of being a Christian, this was a shock to me! But it didn’t feel like God was condemning me – it felt like He was promising me that this was the start. Like I WOULD know Him, really truly know Him now.
And then He began to show me. He showed me that my rule-following meant absolutely nothing to Him. He showed me that I could never be good enough for Him. He showed me that He didn’t need my good deeds or obedience to fulfill His will. And then He showed me that He loved me deeply, ridiculously, and extravagantly – even though I wasn’t able to earn it at all. For a girl who felt like she needed to earn any love she received by following rules, this was totally foreign and totally freeing.
My heart began to see that God IS mercy, and that all is grace. I realized that in this life I would never be punished for my sin, because Jesus bore ALL of the punishment for sin. Every bit of God’s wrath was put on Jesus – there is none left for me or for you. He whispered to me that His love for me has nothing to do with my actions or thoughts or even feelings. He told me that I am lovable only because He loves me.
I realized that it is ALL about Him and not at all about me. I was humbled greatly, and it allowed me to just sit and accept love and grace. I am nothing, and I deserve nothing, yet He loves me anyways. Every minute of every day, He chooses me. He chooses you. He is grace and He is mercy.
Romans 3:20-23 –
For no one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what his law commands. For the more we know God’s law, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying it. But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight — not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago. We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.