Finding Grace to Start Again
Updated: Jul 11, 2020
At 38, I can still vividly remember the pain, embarrassment and condemnation that I felt after making some of the biggest mistakes of my teenage years. I remember the hurtful things people said, and the looks they gave – the ones that felt as though they’d pierced my soul. I remember how my heart ached at hearing those closest to me tell me how much I’d disappointed them; how suddenly, in a world full of people, I felt like I was by myself. I remember the fear of having to face my mistakes head on, and I remember the pressure I felt knowing that there were people watching, waiting even, to see if I’d fall again. I wondered whether I’d fall again.
I fell not only because I made the decision to continue indulging in things that catered to my selfish desires, but also because I never truly felt free of my past mistakes. Sure, I did what I was taught: I asked God to forgive me for what I’d done, but even so, I didn’t feel like I was forgiven. Therefore, I continued to walk around with this burden of self-imposed guilt, which only made matters worse as I grew older. Because I still viewed myself as being guilty, the level of conviction that I once felt for messing up diminished. Because I didn’t feel like God had forgiven me, I became less concerned with the idea of disappointing him. I figured, “How much more could I possibly disappoint someone whom I’ve already let down?” My logic (which was anything but logical) couldn’t have been more wrong.
What I thought God thought of me and of what I’d done wasn’t rooted in any kind of truth, rather in my failure to understand the magnitude of his grace – and in turn, my inability to receive his grace, which was always there. After every misstep, after every fall, God’s grace was always available.
If this story sounds familiar, like it was ripped right from the pages of your own life, I’m here to let you know that there is hope. God’s grace is still available. But to receive it, and to move forward toward becoming the woman God has called you to be, you have to:
Get out of your head. Stop mentally torturing yourself over past mistakes – especially if you’ve sought God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of those directly impacted by your actions. Granted, you have no control over how people will respond to your request for forgiveness, but you can be certain that God will respond with an outpouring of grace and that he will no longer hold those things against you. “I – yes, I alone – will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.” (Isaiah 43:25) If God is willing to lay aside your mistakes, then you must also be willing to lay them aside and to accept the grace and mercy that he makes available to you daily.
Keep other people out of your head. When you mess up, yes, people will talk, and what they say may very well be hurtful. But once you come into the understanding that God himself has declared you innocent, that completely changes the game and makes void every ill word people have spoken to you or about you. When the Pharisees brought before Jesus the woman who was caught in an adulterous relationship, I imagine their account of her character was nothing shy of inglorious, and they assumed, based on what she’d done that Jesus would condone her being put to death (as if he weighs each sin differently). Instead, he turned the tables, challenging any of her accusers to throw the first stone if, and only if they themselves had committed no sin. It didn’t take long for the woman’s accusers to disappear, and when only she and Jesus remained, he didn’t condemn her as her accusers had anticipated. Instead, he forgave her, told her to go on with her life, and to sin no more. What Jesus says about you surpasses anything anyone else could ever say.
Get to know God’s heart. You’ll hear me say it time and time again: get an understanding of God’s character. Many times, what you think God is like, or the way in which you think he’ll respond is so far off the mark. It’s through his word that you’ll better understand who he is and how much he loves you. And as God takes you through different situations, your experiences with him during these times will be some of the best demonstrations of his character in action. Despite your mistakes, you can rest assured that God’s only plans for you are favorable. His character will not allow him to set you up for disaster even though your mistakes may leave you feeling as if disaster is exactly what you deserve.
I’ll admit: it took some time for me to understand everything I’m telling you today. But when that moment arrived, it was the most liberating experience. Ever. To be able to walk with my head held high, no longer second guessing myself and no longer fixated on what people thought of me; to be able to look at myself in the mirror without feeling guilty; to be able to ask God to prepare me to be a wife and not feel like I was unworthy of making such a request; to see him answer my prayer, and to watch the life I once thought I’d never have unfold so beautifully under the umbrella of his grace…there is absolutely nothing like it.
My prayer for you today is that you too will find grace to start again; that you won’t let the condemnation of past failures stop you from reaching your full potential in God. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Reclaim your virtue. Fight for it…and with everything that’s in you, fight to keep it. I know you can do it.