Grace. Just grace, I dare say is the framework for my relationship with Jesus. Christ is the solid foundation but alongside love I am often bestowed with an abundance of undeserved grace. Looking over the last 2 years, the last week even, I feel completely cherished by the favor, love and opportunities God has given to me. These little gifts usually come at a time where my heart is not even seeking what God wants from me. This often happens as if a huge box is dropped from the sky right in front of me and it is something so big that I cannot ignore what God is doing, my heart softens, and I am overcome with feelings of being loved, cherished, confident in ways that do not make sense, and empowered.
Just this last week I can think of a multitude of ways that I have experienced grace. The first being that no matter how many times I turn to the idols of self-pleasure, or turn away from God and try to handle things in my own strength, His mercies are truly new each day. That does not give me permission to continually turn away, but it does give me the freedom to grow, fall down, and get back up. When I make a choice, or stumble my way to old habits I imagine God patiently sitting there and quietly saying, I have something more for you as soon as you are ready to reach out to me. Even if I get stuck in a cycle of seeking things of this world or temporary pleasure over him, He waits. When I finally realize it isn’t working, or decide I am tired of the same empty feelings, the feelings of guilt, shame, and isolation, God is there. When I reach out to him, he gently reaches out his hand and helps me up out of the pit I have put myself in, or helps me up off the ground from a stumble, he brushes the dust off me, gives me a hug and says let’s try that again, maybe this time we can go through it together? I imagine that hug being an embrace that is like being wrapped in confidence, strength, peace, and love. I imagine God’s voice to be gentle and full of acceptance that pours out his mercies. The beautiful thing is despite how many times I go back to the same place, God is patiently waiting for me to reach out to him. He wants me to lay the struggles, the temptations, the lies, the shame and guilt all at his feet and leave them there. His burden is not one that includes any of those things. His burden is full of life, hope, confidence, peace and joy.
This week I had an opportunity to do something I never thought I would do. God dropped this in my lap, to share my story the feelings of isolation that happened as a result of being raped, but the beautiful redemption and victory I have gotten to see over the last 2 years. That God never left my side, he gave me just what I needed in the moments of utter despair to keep going, even when I wasn’t seeking him. He put people in my life who had faith for me even when I couldn’t have faith for myself. It is just like in Luke 5 when a group of friends bring their friend through the roof to have him healed where Jesus is preaching. Jesus saw their faith and healed their friend. I have gotten to experience that. That the faith of those who love me healed me. See, when I felt alone, they said you aren’t alone, when I felt unlovable they said they loved me that God loved me, when I felt hopeless they said it will get better and God will use this, when I felt like I couldn’t make it through another day they said you do have that strength because you are a daughter of God and he won’t let you fall, when I was overcome with guilt and shame they said it isn’t your burden, you have a heavenly father who loves you and wants to take that from you. All the while they loved me and displayed that same grace. They loved me when I made the same mistakes over and over again, they comforted me when I was in sorrow, they did the small things of just being there, letting me sleep on their couch, they fed me when I hadn’t even though about eating all day. All because they could see what God has planned. And I look at that and is how God covers me with his grace. None of those things were deserved, yet they were bestowed upon me.
I can sit here and think to 2 years ago, a year ago, even 6 months ago and had I been asked to share and try to go back to those feelings of immense isolation. My answer would have been no. But I know that God is going to use it, that when that video is played, as anxious as I am about it, because it means more people will know my story, people who I cross paths with on Sunday, that being raped doesn’t get to define me. And it is because Christ defines me I can share. And when I think of how much God has done in the last 2 years I am left with this desire to share how I have been blessed. That God has never stopped working even though I have chosen to try to do it by myself time and time again, God said My child, I have something more for you. I am beginning to have these undeserved opportunities of sharing, and it isn’t because of anything I have done, but it is because of what God has done. So today I am thankful that God has blessed me with friends that continue to fight for me in the times where I turn to old habits or become overwhelmed. I am humbled and blessed that God is saying, do you see my daughter? I am using your hurt for something more. I do not know what all that means, I do not know what the impact is going to be, but I know that it is by the grace of God that my story can be used at all. I am truly honored that others see how God has been working and want me to share that for others to hear. It is empowering to be able to say Jesus, he is my victory.