I mentioned in my "School's Out--Now What" post, that one of the things I was working on this summer was following along with GoodMorningGirls book club summer reading of "The Ministry of Motherhood". The group is actually beginning their 4th week. I just received my book on Friday. I thought about just reading through the book at my normal fast pace and starting on track with them today. However, that would mean I would skip out on the very valuable learning and growing that would take place by really immersing myself into the worksheets, SOAPs [Bible study which follows Scripture (write it out), Observation (what is God trying to show me), Application (how can I apply it to my life), and Prayer], and the numerous blog posts and videos from other women.
I wasn't for sure which was the best approach...start slowly and not worry about catching up or DIVE in, catch up, and then take it slow. God took that decision out of my hands and made it easy. I decided I would try to do all of the "work" I had missed at a rapid pace.....the best of both worlds so to speak. NO! God said to slow down and soak it all in. When I sat down to do the first SOAP---I found it impossible to jump in and do it quickly. Just soaking in the verse Psalm 127:1 and fully applying the SOAP method took me hours because it spoke so deeply to me. "Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted." So, God said slow down and focus on me....don't focus on catching up. I can still use the same tools and reap the same benefits that come from a group Bible/book study. I can still have the same accountability and encouragement.
I'm so glad I decided to slow down and focus instead of just trying to "check" it off the list. Last night I had intended to read several chapters, but instead I just made it through one because I really let it soak in. I'm glad I did because God found me in those pages. He found me because I stopped and let Him.
Chapter 1 is the first of several that talk about GRACE. It's important that we accept grace and give grace. Most especially it is important that we model it for our children. They need to learn how to accept it and to give it. I'm looking forward to the author expanding on that more in the coming chapters because I do feel it is important and I am excited to read about ways to let God use me in teaching it. I'm a firm believer in "you can't teach what you don't know". I can't wait to see how He molds my own heart in the process.
When I slowed down, I found God talking to me in the first part of the chapter. Sally Clarkson did a great job of using her words to bring the story of Peter to life. Her telling the story was intended to set the scene for modeling and accepting grace. I normally would have read the story of Peter and rushed right into the "meat" of the chapter and finding the answers I wanted "now". After all, how many countless times have I read or heard that story. Having been in church from the time of birth and Sunday school seldom ever being missed, I knew it well. After all, I have taught all three of my children the matching little song "Peter, James, and John in the sailboat"......and they all loved it. It would have been easy to skip right through those words and on to the "how-to". God said no. He said stop HERE and listen to ME.
When I did as He asked, His spirit ran all over me. Peter was on that boat with his shoulders sagging. He had messed up, "royally" as my southern roots would say. He had been one of Christ's chosen followers. He had walked hand in hand ministering with Jesus. He was on "fire" for God. But now, he was defeated and a storm was raging in his heart and soul. He had failed. He had denied that he had ever known his "master". He had been a coward and deserted Jesus in his greatest hour of need. Nothing he could do could wash away the shame and guilt he was feeling. Jesus had called him "the rock". He now was a disappointment in his own eyes.
His friends tried to encourage him and cheer him up. They reminded him of forgiveness and how vast the love of Christ is. He knew they were right, However, he just couldn't "feel" it. He had even witnessed the incredible resurrection. He had even felt that forgiveness temporarily. Jesus had even embraced him in love and forgiveness. At that moment, he would have done anything for Jesus and the love he felt was real. However, as the next few days went by those "good" feelings were replaced with guilt again. His joy and power were gone. All he felt was remorse, shame, and the accusations in his mind were insurmountable.
On that boat, he was despondent. He was so down on himself. He tried to fish, but his net kept coming back empty. In his mind, he was thinking, "See, I can't even get that right. I'm good for nothing." That is where God found me. How many times have I found myself in that same spot, carrying around that same weight of shame, remorse, and disappointment in myself? Countless. How many times have I felt strong and confident, forgiven of current and past mistakes but then crashed as the guilt and shame returned? More than I care to admit. How many times have I allowed those mistakes to spiral in my thinking to the point that I've felt worthless and as if I will never be pleasing to God? Oh, so many times.
Where does it change? When does the truth really soak in? When does forgiveness really overtake the shame, doubts, and unworthiness. What key is missing?
Peter just knew that if he could just see Jesus one more time, everything would be ok. He just needed to touch him again and let the forgiveness roll all over him and into every little doubt, every little seed of worthlessness that was growing. Peter got that chance. They heard a voice telling them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. They may have felt silly at the time. They may have been thinking, yeah right....like it will make a difference. However, they decided it can't hurt to try. When they did, their nets came back overflowing. It was a few minutes later that they realized the voice they heard belonged to Jesus. Peter couldn't wait to get out of that boat. I imagine he got to shore in record time. He NEEDED to see and touch Jesus. He needed his heart filled with forgiveness, acceptance, and love. He CRAVED those words "It's all right. My life and love will cover all of your darkness. Just depend on me. You are my chosen one."
Wow---those words are washing all over me even as I reread them and type them. "My love will cover you." He never asked for perfection. In fact, He wants us fully dependent on Him and not trying to do things in our power. It's our failures that drive us to Him. Without His covering of our sins and HIS sacrifice, we can NOT be WHOLE! He offers us GRACE. His grace, unmerited and undeserved favor, is HIS GIFT to us. He wants us to grasp it and BELIEVE it. He wants no part in me (and you) carrying shame and guilt. When we come to Him with a truly repentant heart, it is GONE. His death on the cross was FOR THAT. When we keep carrying around the guilt, shame, and unworthiness we are diminishing the power of the cross. Guilty. We are also letting Satan have a stronghold to attack us. Little seeds that separate us from God can be taken by Satan and he can water them and let them grow deep roots. Letting that continue happen eventually crowds out God's voice. We can't let that happen. We have to take the GRACE of God and ACCEPT it. We can never earn it. We just have to accept it and learn to share it with others.
Perfection is unattainable. We all have regrets. We all have completely, totally messed up something that matters. We've disappointed others and most especially ourselves. I have wasted opportunities and time that can't be given back. I've made decisions that have altered my paths in ways that I wish I had never stepped on. Countless regrets. Outright sin. Disobedience in following what He has asked of me. Failures as a wife. Failures as a mother. The list is unending. GRACE is far reaching. His GRACE reaches down and flushes out the sin and the accompanying guilt, shame, and accusations. I just have to let HIM have that control. The voices of the enemy have to be silenced. I have to be vulnerable enough to turn all of me over to Christ----even the dark spots that we are all good at hiding from the world. I have to just get out of that boat as fast as Peter did and get myself to the shore so that I can touch Christ and hear him tell me that "My life and love cover all your sins".
Grace. It's a powerful word. It's a daily gift. It's something that I can't wait to learn more about. I can't wait to let it take deeper root in my heart. It is NOT a license to do as I wish. I can't live my life knowing that I can use grace as an excuse to be able to willfully sin or ignore God's request. However, it does free me from the perfectionism that tends to drive me. Knowing you can fail and knowing you WILL more times than succeed, is weight-lifting. Shame, guilt, regret, and unworthiness begin to slowly release their grip. Marriages can be saved. Families can be strengthened. Lives can be altered in powerful ways when we learn to give Grace to other people. Being that motherhood IS A MINISTRY, it's something powerful to teach our children. Lead by example. Teach by learning. GRACE.
Let Sally say it better than I ever could:
He allowed Peter to fail spectacularly so he would finally understand that grace is the key to serving God and his kingdom. Not by his own strength and courage, but only God's constant grace and mercy would Peter be able to deliver Jesus' message to the world---a message that would then be wrapped in the grace and mercy he had come to know so well.
As mothers, I believe, we are called to take this lesson of grace to heart. Like Jesus, we are to draw our children to a life apart from the rest of the crowd. Each of us is designed by God to whisper his words to the hearts of our children so they will feel the call of God in their own lives to become "fishers of men". Yet we must always remember that our children, like Peter, will never be perfect. Each of them needs for us, like Jesus, to extend to him or her the gift of constant love, grace, and forgiveness.
He said we are first to love the Lord God with all our hearts (receiving grace), and then we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (giving grace).
Perfection is not a standard he requires of me as a mother, for his grace extends to me as well a my children. My heartfelt trust in him will be the fuel that energizes my days as I see him draw my children through this gift that will serve them their whole lives.