Growing in Grace
Growing In Grace
Today's guest blogger, Karen Wingate, reflects on the process of learning that grace is more than a five-letter word. Karen wrote the meditation published in The Upper Room magazine for March 21:
Although the mending of my math book by my third-grade teacher was my first introduction to the concept of grace, it took me years to figure out what that five-letter word meant and how it impacted my relationship with Jesus Christ. There are still some days when, just as I think I understand God's grace, the enormity of what Jesus did washes over me and I am filled with wonder all over again.
Shortly after my eleventh birthday, I realized my need for a Savior. As I talked with my minister's wife at a youth camp about my desire to accept Christ, I asked, "Do you think I'll work hard enough in the church to be a good Christian?" Sadly, she answered yes. She missed the chance to tell me more about this thing called grace.
Throughout my high school years, I was the "perfect" kid. Deep inside however, I felt unworthy, unwanted, never measuring up, never doing enough to satisfy the God who I wanted to follow. I think I truly believed that when I died, a begrudging Christ would meet me at heaven's gates with these words, "Well, since by my death, I said I would give you salvation if you believe in me, I'll let you in. But go sit in that corner over there while those who are more worthy worship me throughout eternity."
It took another teacher, a seminary professor, to open my eyes to God's grace. The truth is, earning my way to heaven is impossible even if I lived a sinless life from this moment on, for I still bear sin's stain from any wrong I have done or any wrong attitude I have held up to this point. Christ did what I could not do for myself. By his atoning death, he removed the sin smudges from my life.
When I heard this explanation, I felt like I had been set free! "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we would be called children of God and that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1, NIV). Because of grace, Christ invites me to sit with everyone else on heaven's front row, -- for there are no back rows, no time-out corners, in heaven.
How ironic that I and so many other believers slip the shackles of legalism back onto our wrists! Countless times I felt I had to go to church, I had to read my Bible, I had to act a certain way before God or anyone else would accept me. The apostle Peter sure had it right when he penned the words of 2 Peter 3:18; grace is a growth process. As we mature in our understanding of Christ and the measure of Hhs love, we will grow in our desire to be more like him, to distribute grace-gifts to those around us, to pay forward the forgiveness and grace none of us deserve. And, just as we have been transformed, so God's grace will transform those with whom we share the gift.
No wonder John Newton, the former-slave –trader-turned-hymn-writer, called grace "amazing!"
Karen Wingate is a minister's wife in western Illinois. She and her husband Jack have college-age daughters and their other "child," a Welsh Corgi. Karen writes about children's-ministry Issues at www.childrenteach.blogspot.com.