Fighting against shallow grace: Forgiving well

This past weekend, my husband and I had a three day argument about who was more right.

Worse yet- It’s the same argument on repeat:

“You don’t listen attentively.”

“You don’t talk very nicely.”

We sometimes become magically more mature and remember our “I-statements”:

“I feel unheard when you don’t listen attentively.”

“I feel hurt when you don’t talk nicely.”

After a few days of this argument, sometimes after a few minutes of this argument, we get tired of it, and we move to something that looks like forgiving each other.

“I’m sorry, I know I don’t always talk nice.”

“I’m sorry, I know I don’t always listen.”

We don’t want to hurt each other. I understand that there are marriages and other family relationships that do go for the jugular with each argumentative blow, but that isn’t the dynamic at work between my husband and I, or most relationships each of you have either.

Many arguments end with “I’m sorry.” at the very least and “It’s ok.” or even better, “You’re forgiven.” Save the few extremely loud individuals who love political drama, most of us aren’t trying to duke it out with words to win some trophy, but something eludes us here. There’s a missing piece. We are settling for shallow grace and arguments on repeat.

Lately, I think at our house we’ve managed to get closer to the heart of it, and this stubborn problem…I know it’s mine.

In Pastor Andrew Richard’s book, Christ and the Church, a  thirty-day devotion concerning marriage, he includes a really helpful day on reconciliation. It unmasked my tendency to seek shallow grace…for myself, for my husband, and in other relationships.

Pastor Richard, proposes five simple words to begin reconciliation:

I am the worse sinner.

Where I wanted shallow grace, a quick “I’m sorry” from my husband to keep me happy, preferably without having to say it myself, Rev. Richard cuts to the chase: I am the worse sinner. This is the door to real grace – recognizing my utter inability to talk nicely to my husband. I have a fault and he gets the brunt of it. Who cares if he doesn’t listen sometimes! I’m loosing out on grace by pointing out his issues in order to avoid fully looking at mine.

I have sinned.

That’s where grace starts.

I know this can all circle around and you may be dying to say, “But wait, if you never talk about what bothers you, how will you solve any marriage struggles?!”

Good point! But that is for discussion time, not confession time. Arguments demand confession. Discussion is for another time. In the heat of the moment, we most often need confession.

Arguments, disagreements, harsh words give me the chance to take the log-shaped trinket out of my left eye and let Gospel grace in.

It’s so hard, so against my nature. That tells me it’s more Jesus than it is me, and that’s a good thing.

Christ has forgiven me. I have been awful. I have wandered. I have been selfish. I have been rageful. I have been lazy. He actively forgives me anyway. There is no shallow, “I’m sorry” “No problem” in my relationship with Him. There is

“Chief of sinners, though I be.”

“I shed my blood for thee.”

The Word cuts to my heart and because I see my need for grace, I see my need for Him.

My husband mirrors this for me in my daily life. He mirrors all my deepest issues. Other familial relationships, even very close friendships, may do a little of this mirroring too, because of their intimacy. My husband gets the best of me, but he also gets the worst of me. These intimate relationships that lay bare our messy souls remind us that Grace is bigger than my mess.

I am the worse sinner.

Those words stick a little in my throat coming out. I’m learning slowly that it’s better this way. It’s better being healed, than being right.


Christ and the Church is available for purchase here, or get a free downloadable copy here.

Another great resource on the topic of forgiveness, particularly when forgiveness feels like an overwhelming task, is Donna Pyle’s, Forgiveness.

 

 

Chasing “a little bit better”, Freedom in Restoration

Oh goodness. The title for this last week of study just gets right to the heart of it, doesn’t it?

Chasing “a little bit better”…

How often do I reach for a little bit better when God offers me life abundant?

Why do I do it? Why do I eat the crumbs that fall from the table, taking in a little measly morsel of grace when I go to church, and another measly morsel when I converse with a friend, another measly morsel when I finally, finally apologize after lashing out at my husband?

I refuse isolation in this. I know it’s not just me. So many of us are yoked to chasing just a tiny bit better – feeling better, talking better, acting better-

when God wants restoration for us, instead of better.

Galatians 6:1 ties Galatians 5 and 6 together. Read Galatians 5:22-6:2 as one continuous passage:

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

The fruit of the Spirit may as well be Christ living in me to reach out to you and vice versa.

Can you imagine? God does not tell us to reach out to all the put-together people, all the people who live well and walk well in the faith. He tells us, through Paul here, to reach our hand in and offer help to the hurting, to call out sin where it lives, in you and in me, to be honest, when it’s hard and it hurts, but to bear it together.

Sharing our sin, our disgrace openly, within true community and actual care, is I believe the most powerful weapon we have to combat Satan in our current cultural context.

Our culture says, “Shame on you.”

Christ says, “I restore.”

Our culture says, “You can do better.”

Christ says, “I did it all.”

Our culture says, “Don’t let them see your darkness.”

Christ says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light.”

We bring that light to each other. We carry the Word out and into a world so deeply in need, chasing just a tiny bit better and losing.

The oft left unquoted Word from John 17:15 says,

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 

It’s a prayer from Christ Himself over each one of us. We’re quick to quote the next verse:

They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.

A little bit better feels a lot like God letting us keep our junk to ourselves, keeping us from humiliation, keeping us from the embarrassing stain of our own sin, but He has a bolder, bigger plan:

Reveal it, so I can heal it.

(Ok, I didn’t intend for that to rhyme. 😉 )

Christ prayed for us to remain in the world because He knows that a little bit better doesn’t heal – it only patches. Revealing our pain and struggle, revealing where we have fallen short and mess it all up – that not only leads to our restoration, but it also begins the process of restoration for another.

Can we do it? Can we share some secret shame, so that another can find some bright and glorious restoration?

We can’t cast our pearls before swine. We can’t be transparent where there is no relationship, we don’t bare the burden of sin, the weight of sin with people who would take it and trash it underfoot, but in relationship it’s worth the risk.

Paul states in Galatians 6:1 “watch yourselves…” We don’t want to be tempted and thrown into someone else’s drama of sin, but he doesn’t tell us not to risk it. Christ’s solution to this in John 17 is the Word. If we are going to help another through their shame of sin, we bring the Word in genuine care and concern and we wrap it in our own humility of sin and the restoration we have received from Christ Jesus.

It’s so much better than a little bit better…

It’s life together.

It’s Redemption before our eyes.

It’s Him at work in you and me, and between you and me.

It’s remarkable grace.

Can we be done chasing a little bit better…together? I’ll share with you and you share with me. We’ll bear the weight of sin together, confess together, proclaim forgiveness over one another and experience the fresh and utterly weightless mercy of our Savior…together.

#lifetogether – Connect and send someone this week’s free downloadable Dear 52 card or order the whole set here

Discussion questions:

When have you gotten burnt in a “relationship” that wasn’t as solid as you thought?

How does Christ’s restoration differ from making things a little bit better?

What in your life right now would you like a little bit better, that we could pray with you for restoration instead?

Freedom to walk loved

What does it mean to be good at something?

A good worker

A good musician

A good student

A good mom

A good anything

What does “good” even mean?

Peace, joy, patience, kindness, aren’t all these good? You betcha. But the way we define them and and see them working in our lives may be quite a bit different than the world.

On this week’s podcast, let’s talk about “good” and the good fruits that God works in us. We’ll widen our perspective of fruits and callings, while sticking to the Truth of Scripture.

Looking for this week’s video lesson archive? Find it at the link below –

What is Freedom?