When looking around at the women that I admire most in my life, they all have one attribute in common – GRACE. Oh, how I longed to be that woman filled with grace! Slow to react and quick to love. Slow to judge and quick to forgive. Instead, I was quite the opposite. Expecting perfection from all those in my life – from my spouse, family, friends, boss and co-workers. I so easily requested Grace for my own mishaps but was not so easily able to extend it. That all changed at the beginning of 2016 or what I like to call “My Year of Grace”!
At the beginning of the year, I sat down in my living room, in front of my Christmas tree that I was still enjoying after the new year. In one hand I had my fresh brewed cup of coffee and just the right amount of pumpkin creamer, and journal and pen in the other. It was time … time to write out a list of goals for 2016. As I went to write, I felt compelled to not do a list this year. If you know me then you know that this must be God because I love lists. I get all too giddy with the ability of crossing things off after completion. OH the sense of accomplishment it brings with each line drawn. But not this year – this year was different already. This year I would choose a word. One word to focus on throughout the year. One word to define 2016. As I sat there asking God, what His word for me would be for 2016, He quickly answered with the word “Grace”.
Throughout this year, there have been several (let’s be honest – almost every day) times where I tried to take that word back – erase it from my journal. Maybe I heard God wrong? Maybe the word was Justice. Justice – I could do definitely do that one. I could cross that off the list with ease! Or I would tell God that grace was too hard. “I really needed a new word”, I would tell Him. I needed a do over because grace was not going to be easy.
My journey with grace all started in January, when we discovered that the General Contractor that we hired to build an addition unto our house, to help a close family member, had gone MIA and with him our large deposit. The first set of emotions were not filled with grace. Here we were, my husband and myself, doing what we felt God had called us to do by building an addition, yet in the midst of our obedience, something terrible happened and my response needed to be Grace? How was I going to do that? Give grace to someone that so deeply hurt us?
Looking back on my life, I can see all the times I hurt people throughout the years. In my teenage years and as a young adult, my parents extended more grace then one would think possible. The times I chose to react and yell at my spouse versus being cautious with my words and leaning in with compassion and grace. Grace wasn’t just a theme for 2016 – it was a way of life from the beginning and will be till the end. We reach for grace every day!
I could have let anger, resentment, worry and injustice rule my heart, thoughts and life but deciding to choose grace was life changing. Instead of sending bitter messages via text or voicemail to our General Contractor instead I chose grace. I chose the unexpected. I chose to send him texts stating “You can’t outrun God’s grace! You can’t outrun God’s Love!”. I knew being upset and angry at him wouldn’t change him… But GRACE … that could change him. Doing the unexpected… that could change him. Every day I sent the unexpected. Did any of this bring the money back? No. Did any of this magically build our addition? No. I had nothing on the outward to account for what grace was doing inwardly in me.
Grace reminds me of falling of my horse. Horseback riding for over 30 years has given me many opportunities to have fallen off! Some falls are harder and hurt more than others but every time I have fallen off, I can say one thing has been common – it has not been graceful. We need to realize that we are human. We are going to mess up. Life is messy. We are going to come off and we are going to get hurt and a little dirty. But one thing remains the same – no matter how many times we mess up (fall off), God’s grace stays the same. Our fall wasn’t graceful but God is! Truth is, if we realized that Grace was waiting for us maybe it wouldn’t seem too hard to get up and keep going.
In Luke 23, we read the story of Jesus on the cross next to two thieves. In the midst of all the pain, suffering, agony, abuse – the thief on one side asks Christ to forgive him and despite everything He is going through, Christ forgives him. This story shows us the divine nature of God! It shows us His Love for mankind despite all that we have done wrong; that, He still loves and forgives us.
Isn’t that the ultimate example of grace? That despite how He was being treated, He still extends Grace. Grace is God’s unmerited favor on our lives. We didn’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. But it is still there. It is still ours! Shouldn’t we be extending the same to others?
How would we react when put under those kinds of stresses like Christ on the Cross? Physical pain – nailed to the cross and taking your last breaths. Emotional pain – made a mockery out of and being betrayed by the exact ones you came to save. Spiritual pain – bearing the sins of this world – our sins! Would Grace be our reaction? What comes out of us in those moments shows them and God what your own divine nature is.
Is it Love?
Is it Grace? Is it Forgiveness?
There are no limits or rules to His Grace. It is there for us to receive at every obstacle, around every corner and through all of our mess ups – Grace is there. Now my prayer is when others think of myself and you, that they will also think “Grace is there”!
Lauren Clark lives in Dallas, Texas, where she moved 5 years ago to be closer to family and help plant a church (Shoreline Dallas). She has been married to Sean Clark for over seven years and they have six dogs and one horse.
Lauren' s passion is sharing God's love for us through personal stories and relating them to
practical Biblical truths that bring life, love, freedom, and encouragement to every area of our