I am thankful that God’s grace outreaches my ability to completely mess things up.
I lived the first couple of decades of my marriage trying to please God, and earn acceptance so I felt worthy. Instead of living under grace and assurance, immersed in the knowledge that I am loved regardless of my performance, I worked hard to prove myself. I didn’t understand that in Christ I was already accepted. I viewed my marriage and my walk with God as a work contract. It was exhausting trying to be perfect and please everyone. It was an impossible task that wore me out.
It took quite a few times of falling flat on my face, before I realized I was still loved and secure in His hand, even after total failure. Finally, the clarity of the gospel shone through and chased away fear and condemnation and in it’s place, I discovered gratefulness and freedom.
It isn’t a matter of karma.
The Good News is that we don’t get what we deserve. That is what makes the story so wonderful. Jesus came to give us rest from trying to seek approval and escape judgement. The gavel has crashed down and there is a verdict. You are forgiven. Jesus took our punishment and gave us freedom. He is not telling us to “Do good things, and be saved.” He is telling us, “It is finished!” We run around trying to make up for things and we get kicked around by regrets and shame, but that isn’t how God intends for us to live. I like how Bono explained Grace and karma in a recent interview,
“You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff. I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.”
What a relief to know that all of my stupid mistakes and lame attempts at wife-hood are scooped up and rearranged into something beautiful. If I stumble and fall, God’s long arms lift me back up. His grace anchors me as I flail and thrash about, trying to find a safe place to stand. My mistakes are countless, yet He turns them around for His glory. I don’t have to relentlessly evaluate myself or worry about what others think of me. I am free to try and fail, without worry about the end result. The end has been decided. He wins, so we win. I love because I am loved. It’s that simple.
When I realize the depth of God’s love, it changes everything.
Our lives matter not because of what we can do or accomplish but our lives matter because of what Jesus accomplished for us. This is so freeing. It stops me from thinking things like,
“If I can just become successful, then my life will matter,”
“If I was thinner, then my husband would find me more beautiful”
“If I just had more friends, I would be happy.”
“If I could just be more like her, I would be accepted and liked.”
“If I could make up for all my mistakes, I could finally feel peace.”
When I find myself spinning my wheels and trying to appear acceptable, I remind myself that:
1. My value does not stem from my hard work or accomplishments.
2. I am allowed to be weak, because He is strong.
3. Because I have everything I need in Christ, I can take risks, love big, and invest freely in my marriage.
4. Any mistakes I make are redeemable, so regret and shame cannot claim me.
5. I don’t need to validate myself or prove myself worthy. Because of Christ’s finishing work I have all of the acceptance, love, and meaning I need.
How does all of this help me as a wife? It takes all of the craziness down a few notches. It stops me from being so critical of Scott and of myself. Understanding where my approval comes from changes how I treat my spouse and others, and helps me to love without restraint.
“For grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a a result of works, so that no one may boast.” —Ephesians 2:8-9
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How does God’s grace affect your life and marriage?