I was a hit man....
I had sold my soul to alcohol....
I was a prostitute and ran a topless bar.....
I would sit and listen and think, "Wow. What a great testimony! I wish I had one like that...." Little did I know that my thinking was very much off.
Romans 3:10), I didn't truly feel the impact of that truth until I met my husband.
Grant grew up on the other side of the tracks. He was raised in an environment of divorce, alcohol, and drugs. He had seen the inside of a jail cell. He was well acquainted with the atmosphere that drinking would produce. He knew the Church routine but, instead of seeing sold-out people abandoned to Christ, he saw hypocritical Christians who would walk into Church, Bible in tow, but could be found on the bar stool beside him that next Friday night. He saw first-hand what I had only heard about growing up.
When we met, I did not know about his past, but neither did I entertain the thought that we would ever be together. I had assumed I would marry someone just like me..... A guy with a family on the road, homeschooled, a singer, a past that held no bad baggage. But the Lord's ways are always higher than ours. I remember a certain night in October of 2008. Grant and I had become very good friends over the summer. We had spent a lot of time together witnessing with our group. We were both attracted to one another and, though I wouldn't admit it at the time, I was falling for him. Hard. On this particular night in October, Grant had asked me if I would consider pursuing a relationship with him. He had spoken with my Dad and I had told him that I needed to think and pray about it. On this night, we were talking and Grant began to tell me a bit about his past and how he had grown up. Though I had heard a few bits and pieces, it was the first time I heard his whole story. And my pride quickly rose up. As he was confiding in me his "dirty laundry," I found myself thinking, "Oh no....no, God. I CAN'T. No way. There is no way I can EVER be with him now. I mean, I praise God for his salvation and deliverance from sin, but that most certainly does not mean I should have to live with it. No. The guy I marry is going to have a clean past... like me."
Immediately, God placed a firm hand over my spirit's mouth. Even though I hadn't spoken those words out loud, they were said very loud and clear in God's ears. And like a swift, spiritual spanking, the Lord reprimanded me and I felt Him say, "Kristen! What makes you think that you are any better? YOUR sin is just as sickening in My sight."
To say I felt ashamed that my thinking had been so prideful is an understatement. And I began to cry as Grant finished his story. I felt sorrow for everything he had had to see and experience. I felt broken for him. But more than that, I felt utterly disgusted with my own sin - the biggest of which I found was my arrogance and pride. As he ended his testimony, he said, "Kristen, I'm sorry and I hope you can forgive me of everything I did that was ungodly."
Suddenly I became aware of what grace really was. For the first time, I was put in a position I had never been in before. I began to think of Jesus and how He looked upon all my sin - all the wretched, foul, and despicable thoughts, desires, actions, and attitudes - and chose to forgive and accept me in spite of it all. He gave me a full pardon. He wiped my slate clean. And here was this man asking ME to forgive him??? With LOTS of tears, I said to my husband-to-be, "If God forgives you....then who am I to refuse to forgive you too??"
That night was a pivotal moment in my life when I suddenly understood grace like I never had before.
Far too many take grace for granted. Far too many do ungodly things in the name of grace. Many choose to lovingly welcome and justify sin and call it grace. Many view grace as the acceptance, without rebuke, of everything that is unholy.
But let me tell you what grace really is.
Grace is the God of all that is just and righteous looking down on a pathetic, despicable, broken sinner and, showing mercy and love, chooses to forgive and cleanse and restore that sinner. Grace is God clothing that sinner in the blood of His Son and sitting them down at His right hand. And grace is that sinner, with thankfulness and praise and humility, showcasing that incredible event to others.
Grace is my husband seeing all my of all my flaws and imperfections and yet remain faithful.
Grace is my husband forgiving my emotional outbursts of hatefulness and disrespect.
Grace is my husband knowing my sins and struggles - past and present - and choosing to love me in spite of them.
....and grace is me doing the same.
Don't frustrate the grace of God. Don't make excuses for sin in the name of grace. If we do that, we miss all that grace TRULY is!
If we - as that broken and shameful sinner - humble ourselves in the sight of God and one another, we will be raised up. We will be healed. We will be strong. We will see the glory of redemption. We will be filled with joy. We will have a bigger impact upon those still in Satan's clutches. And we will have a better understanding of all that was done at Calvary.
That's what grace can do.
Grace! Grace! God's grace!
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within.
Grace! Grace! God's grace!
Grace that is greater than all our sin.