Ian forgets our address and his PIN. He forgets when he last ate and what he ate. And taking his medicine is hit or miss. Thanks to his traumatic brain injury, Ian’s short term memory stinks. But in part because of that, he loves to reminisce about the past he does remember, reveling in the most minute details.
Way Back When
Excited about his interview this week for a position working with kids, we’ve been reflecting on Ian’s early school years and how tough he was on his teachers. As if his red hair and outgoing personality were worn as a scarlet letter, Ian was in trouble from day one. But there was no hesitation when asked about his favorite teacher. Hands down, it was the teacher who failed him.
Mr Montemayer taught seventh grade American history. With a great sense of humor and an engaging teaching style, his students loved him. But the class was challenging and required disciplined study and a good memory. Preparations for the comprehensive final started months in advance. In spite of all the extra study sessions and some generous accommodations, Ian still lacked the confidence he needed and buckled under the pressure.
Not a particularly thought out or effective strategy, before exam day, Ian wrote some notes on the inside of his arm. When he tried to cheat, though, either he couldn’t read his own writing or what he wrote wasn’t helpful. Ian’s botched attempt to pass the final was a big fat fail on all counts.
How curious that in spite of being caught, and failing the class, Mr. M was still Ian’s favorite. Ian explained… “He knew that I was a bad student and an even worse cheater, but he still liked me. He said so. And I could just tell.”
That happened 13 years ago. Hearing Ian re-tell it… hit me with a new and profound understanding. Ian had experienced grace. Grace was more powerful than the F for the class and more powerful than the shame of being caught. Grace impacted Ian’s heart in such a way that he was confident Mr. M. liked him and all these years later he’s remembered as Ian’s favorite.
Karma vs. Grace
Grace is a tough concept that many Christians gloss over or even miss completely because it makes no sense. We live in a world conditioned to expect karma. What goes around, comes around. Karma keeps life fair and tidy and it’s all about getting what we deserve. Grace is exactly the opposite…getting what we don’t deserve. Besides that, WE CANNOT do anything to earn it or purchase it. It comes to us ONLY by means of a gift.
Ephesians 2:8,9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
Understanding grace is only the first step. Unless you experience grace, it has no power. I remember the day I first experienced God’s grace. It happened many wasted years after becoming a Christian. I had a secret— a closet full of sin that I thought wasn’t hurting anyone. But I knew better. And even though I wasn’t caught, I was enslaved by my own shame. I knew God knew every detail and it was infecting other parts of my life. My inability to contain the stench gave me a deep sense of unworthiness that was eventually my undoing.
DON’T. MISS. THIS.
But …. DON’T MISS THIS… when I gave up trying to hide…it was the day God raised me up and I became truly free. In the end, it happened in an instant… there was no condemnation, no holy spanking. The closet door flung open and I collapsed in Jesus’ arms. In a simple prayer, my scarlet sins became white as snow. (Isaiah 1:18). God removed them as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) Fresh start. Holy Do-Over.
In a fallen world, populated by selfish, proud, lost, fearful, and rebellious people, grace is the one thing that everyone desperately needs. But here’s the thing…
Our ability to experience God’s grace is directly correlated to the degree we acknowledge our need for it.
Do you need Grace? The answer is an emphatic YES. You need it. I need it. Even Mother Teresa needs it.
Romans 3:23, 24 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
Dear Gracious God, I praise you for your unrelenting grace that chased me down. Forgive me for muscling through this Christian life by trying and striving and still falling short. Thank you dear Jesus, for your sacrifice. Because of it, my chains are gone. Remind me afresh of when I first experienced your grace so I’ll always live empowered by it. Amen.