After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Galatians 3:3
I was a new facilitator in my support group. I wanted to do everything right. I wanted to help these ladies who needed a safe place to share their pain. But, I blew it. On the very first night that I had my own group, I totally blew it.
Five years later I can't remember many details from that night...except how I blew it. I remember that very well. I can almost remember the words perfectly. Ugh. I feel embarrassed when I think about them.
Here's what happened:
A lady in my group was sharing about how she was protecting her children from some realities in her extended family. The realities were sinful and she didn't want her children to know anything about that sin so she lied. I said, "I can't believe you would lie to your kids about that. Isn't that as bad as what is going on? How could you justify lying to them like that?"
It took a nanosecond for me to realize what I had done and to regret it. So when our group broke up for the evening and this lady was shooting out the door, I shot after her to apologize. I told her how wrong I was and asked her forgiveness, and let her go. I couldn't really keep her hostage until she was ready to forgive.
That night as I called my leader, I was filled with dread. I had to let her know what an awful group facilitator I had been. I fully expected her to let me know my help was no longer needed.
Instead the leader of our support group said, "There's grace for that. We all blow it sometimes as leaders. You’re new. Stop beating yourself up. You owned it and apologized. Let it go. Learn from it. God may even use your mistake in that woman's life."
I could hardly believe what I was hearing. There was grace for me. I didn't have to be perfect. I could make mistakes and still be considered a good group leader. Relief flooded my soul. Not only could God still use me, He might even use the mess I made. When I hung up the phone, I felt amazed at God's goodness and hopeful about my future.
It's ironic that as Christians we offer grace to those who don't know Christ, while withholding grace from those who have already trusted Him. It's as if there is only enough grace to cross from hell to heaven, but not enough to live every day. We tell unbelievers, "God is bigger than your sins. There is nothing you have done that He won't forgive. Come to Jesus." Basically, that was the same message my leader gave me.
Why had I not heard that much since I became a Christian?
Maybe if we knew there was grace, we could be real with others about our struggles, our sins, and our pain. We wouldn't have to hide, pretend, and posture in self-righteousness. Maybe we might just begin to believe that God loves us, not based on how well we perform, but based on what His Son did at the cross on our behalf. And maybe, we could all breathe a sigh of relief. His grace is enough.
Why do you think it is difficult for believers to extend grace to one another? Was that kind of grace missing in your church experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Karen loves to write and lead women's support group. She is learning to walk in God's grace day to day as well as learning to extend that grace to others. You can follow her blog at karencone.org.