It happened on a plane, a short hop from Sacramento to Portland. I sat there, shell-shocked, crying my eyes out, as the realization washed over me that I have lived 34 years of serving God, immersed in the church, and passionately seeking His presence, yet I was just experiencing the heart and truth of the gospel for the first time. On that plane, reading a parenting book that was really more about the heart of the parent than the behavior of the child, the gospel and its power and all that Jesus was offering me was right there. Staring me in the face. Daring me to do something about it. I had a gospel awakening.
Up Until Then...
My story isn’t all that exciting. I grew up in the church, gave my heart to Jesus at the age of four, and, other than some tame rebellious moments in my teens, I committed to seeking my Savior wholeheartedly. But my theology was all wrong. I can blame the semi-legalistic church culture of the 90s or a lack of a healthy Christian community. I can look back and analyze to the death all the reasons why, after reading my Bible cover-to-cover countless times, going to conferences on the regular, and even attending Bible college, I didn't understand grace. I knew the dictionary definition. I knew that Jesus freely extended it to us, his undeserving children. I knew, deep down, that there was something about this concept that had carried me through the hardest seasons of my life, but it had never fully saturated my heart.
It was a long journey to get here, each step bringing me closer to this moment where God captured my heart in a way that I will never forget. And that journey started with, you guessed it, motherhood. I’m convinced that nothing shows you the depth of your sin than becoming a parent. It wears you down and regularly showcases every weakness, every flaw, and every idol.
Fast-forward 4 years, another baby, and health that was getting progressively worse, and I, self-sufficient, proud, strong, and productivity-worshipping woman that I was, was forced to admit defeat. Enter, the gospel.
You know how it goes: when you are thinking about cutting your hair, you suddenly see your potential style everywhere. Or if you’re in the market for a new pair of leopard print flats, suddenly every store you walk into has them on display. That’s how the gospel was for me. After having my second baby, the gospel started “showing up” everywhere. I listened to podcasts with the gospel as the theme, I read blog posts about the pattern of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration and how the whole Bible tells this narrative. I had conversations with friends about sin and how it is the root of everything that is wrong in our hearts and in our world. I read the Jesus Storybook Bible to my girls and collapsed in tears at the love of the Father displayed across the illustrated pages.
Law & Grace
It suddenly became very apparent to me that while I was a Christian, confident in my relationship with Jesus, I had glazed over the most important part. I knew what Jesus had done and is doing for me, but it didn’t penetrate my heart. I didn’t personalize it and I didn’t let it change me. I took Jesus along for the ride that is my life but didn’t come face-to-face with my fallen nature and the unbelievable gift he offers.
And the root of it is this: I was still stuck in the law, refusing to live in grace and through grace. Because, while following the law is an impossible feat, it’s something I feel like I can strive to do on my own. You see, I like to make things happen. I like to check something off a list, call it good, and pat myself on the back.
I don't have a problem with forming spiritual disciplines or sticking to habits. My problem is that I'm still trying to please God by my own effort. My one desire in this life is to serve my Lord and bring him glory. But time and time again, I find myself focusing on my own accomplishments and trying to make it happen in my own power. These past four years of valleys, both spiritual and physical, have taught me the true depths of God's grace in a way that I really can't even put into a description. It's transformed me and set me free.
God’s grace brings freedom and peace and forgiveness, but it’s unknown and out of our control. To experience it, we have to burn down the idols, let go of what we know, and free fall into grace. But if we do this, we stand to gain more than we can imagine.
So if you also like to make things happen on your own and find yourself frustrated and beaten down, stuck in the cycle of condemnation, remember that God's grace is not only for your salvation, it's also for your ongoing sin and weakness. If you were to surrender to the grace of the gospel, how much shame would it lift from your spirit? What freedom would you live in? What lightness would replace the burdens you currently carry?
Timothy Keller says it best:
"We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope."
Got that? Fully known. Fully loved. Fully Accepted. I'll be walking in that truth this week. Will you join me?
Gospel Resources To Help You On Your Faith Journey
Follow Gracelaced on Instagram for daily gospel truths.
Blog Post: Faith Hacking: Preaching the Gospel To Yourself by Tim Challies
Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt
Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp
Mom Set Free by Jeannie Cunnion
Glimpses of Grace by Gloria Furman
A Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent
New Morning Mercies by Paul David Trip
Gospel-Powered Parenting by William Farley