The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Eph 2:8-9 NIV
What I long to do more than anything is to be able to communicate the power of grace the world. To communicate it, I have to understand it myself and I confess to occasionally struggle. A couple of years ago, I wrote a book called, “Pocket Full of Grace.” The words I wrote communicated to the best of my ability, the Biblical view of grace. When the book was complete and I reread my own words, I shelved the book without publishing it because I realized how bound I still was to law and the guilt and judgment associated with lack of perfection. While my eternity with Christ is sealed, I sometimes waste grace in this life. I won’t publish the book about grace until I can accept the grace of Jesus Christ so fully that I offer grace to myself and those close to me. I know I am saved by grace so why do I still demand perfection in others and myself? That is the question I’ve been trying to answer since shelving my book, “Pocket Full of Grace.”
I ache when I meet people tortured by their past. Lynn is a Buddhist. Christians surround her. Her daughter and best friend have tried to tell her about the grace of Jesus but real mistakes from this life and imagined mistakes from a past life torture Lynn.
“I can’t be a Christian,” Lynn said. “It can’t be that easy. It takes all of the responsibility off me. I know I must have done something terrible in the last life to deserve everything that has happened to me in this life. I’ve given up trying to be happy in this life and am working hard to be good so I have a chance of happiness in the next life.”
I spoke words of grace from the Bible and told her that if she accepts Jesus, she could be relieved of guilt of her past but as I said the words, I remembered how many Christians still believe they are being punished for past sins.
A Christian mother told me, “I’m having so many problems with my teenage son. I’ve done my best but I think God is punishing me for my own teenage mistakes.”
Where is her relief by grace? I know firsthand how painful a troubled teenager is for a mother. This poor mother is suffering from agonizing pain made even worse by her rejection of the grace that is her right through Christ.
I visit churches that waste grace. 25 years later, they are still holding members accountable for past mistakes as they retell tales. I hear words like, “Our piano player is on her second marriage” or “She’s getting what she deserves. You should have seen her in high school.” Preachers preach sin and point fingers from the pulpit where their members roast that same preacher over Sunday lunch. Where is the peace of grace?
Where is grace in Christian families? I hear wives torturing husbands for not being perfect while I stand in grocery store lines. I hear criticism in jokes and husband bashing stories. I hear husbands complaining about things like weight gains, cluttered homes, and nagging. Adult children drag out the mistakes of imperfect parents as childhood stories become dinnertime entertainment. Parents try to discipline children’s current mistakes by clubbing them with past mistakes. Smug words like “I told you so” start family wars that indicate just how much we waste grace while on earth.
Perhaps it would be easier to tell Lynn, the Buddhist, about the grace of Jesus if the Christians who surround Lynn could accept the grace of Jesus so completely while on earth that there is no judgment or guilt remaining in them. Wouldn’t the resulting peace of grace radiate out so far that it would draw the world in?
Jesus was perfect. When I long for perfection in others, and myself, I’m really longing for more of Jesus. Since shelving the book, “Pocket Full of Grace,” when I find myself tortured by what I left undone or by the mistakes of others, I stop and seek out the face of Jesus. I apologize to Him for wasting grace and let grace surround me and return my peace. Real or imagined slights of others lose their power, as I love them through the forgiving eyes of Jesus. The demands of perfectionism that condemn me to restlessness and discontent are replaced by the gentle peace of knowing that others and I are made perfect through the love of Christ.
There is such peace in grace. I cry over Lynn trying so hard to make up for mistakes from a past life but perhaps the real tragedy is when Christians, who are saved by grace, waste it. For today, I’m committing to offer myself and others grace for our own lack of understanding about and acceptance of grace.
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage all of us and strengthen us in every good deed and word. (Paraphrased from 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17