We started out our journey together talking about all our messes, but we always ended up talking about grace. 18 of these blogs have intentionally been about talking about and teaching about grace. On this last day of our journey, I thought I would share one out of the thousands of messes that I’ve put myself or found myself in through the years. I share this mess with the definite hope that though my messes have been great, his grace is far greater. I share this mess with the definite hope that though my messes have been real, his grace is more real, more permanent, more powerful. I share this mess with the definite hope that I am no longer defined or confined by my messes but rather I am formed and transformed, molded and shaped by his amazing grace. Remember grace is the unmerited, unearned, unconditional love of God that meets us where we are and takes us where we need to be. I praise you Jesus for your grace!!!
When Janey and I had been married for six years, we found ourselves with two small children serving a new church that had been through a major crisis and loss of their founding pastor. We were told that we were sent there to “fix things” and “turn this church around.” That may have been what key leaders told us, but looking back almost 30 years, I would say that God sent us there to expose our hearts and lives to the need for his healing.
I was an adult child of an alcoholic who thought that all that stuff was dealt with. The truth was I was filled with insecurities and the need to compensate by overcompensating. My worth and significance was found in my performance and a win at all cost mentality. How this crossed over into my Christianity was that who I was in Christ was all wrapped up in what I did for Christ. This led to a workaholic spirituality that sucked the life out of anyone that was close to me, including especially Janey. I was marching, sprinting through life expecting, even demanding her to do the same. One of the survival tricks I had played on myself when my dad was active in his alcoholism was that I flipped an emotional switch that said, “I am not going to hurt anymore.” I flipped that emotional breaker switch in my adolescence, and when I did, I also took out a lot of necessary, healthy, functional, greatly needed emotional wiring. I may have knocked out my hurt, but I also took out my capacity for deep empathy and love. What I had done to survive as a teenager, became normative. In many ways I was like a machine just cranking through life no matter what the circumstance. Needless to say who I was was killing my bride and the mother of our children. Janey was suffocating and had no one to really say ouch to. I was hurting her and causing her heart to be hardened toward me and I was absolutely, positively clueless to the decline and immanent death of our relationship. I wish I could say I had a great epiphany and things got better immediately. The truth is things got worse and great wounds occurred, and only by the grace of God and his long term healing presence was our marriage restored, made new, indeed resurrected.
Grace didn’t come to us because we deserved it; we didn’t! Jesus, His grace, came to us because we needed him. Forgiveness both vertically and horizontally came. Life, love, laughter came because of who He is not because of who we were. Yea, Andy, but what did y’all do? What are the 10 key principles for surviving marital death? Can’t answer that. I don’t know. But what I do know is that His grace is sufficient. What I do know is that when in our brokenness we came fully to Him, He came fully to us. What I do know is that when we said not just an excruciating “Ouch” but a surrendered “Help,” Jesus was there in the blink of an eye. What I do know is that he gave us the strength to take a step, to take a breath, to simply move forward.
I’ll always remember as we were visiting with a counselor and the counselor asked me, “Andy, how do you feel about _________?” I said, “Well, I think ….”
“No, Andy, how do you feel about _______?”
“It seems to me that ….”
“No, Andy, how do you feel…?”
It literally took me about five minutes to give birth to a feeling. That was a breath, that was a step that was taken only by the grace of God.
As we finish out this journey, where are you still stuck in your mess? Where are you still stuck in your brokenness, in your sin, in your past? Let God meet you there, let Him start His work of healing there, let Him give your breath there, let Him give you the power to take a step forward, a step out, there.
He loves you! There is nothing you can do to make God love you any less, nothing you can do to make God love you any more. He simply and profoundly, deeply and unconditionally, loves you!