During chapel last week, the speaker told the story of Paul–how he lived his life one way until the Lord grabbed him and turned him completely around. If you’ve never read about him, check out the book of Acts. His life is a prime example of the transforming power of the love of Jesus.
On this particular night, I sat in the back of the room with our kids and gave them some coloring pages in the hopes of keeping them relatively quiet. In an attempt to get them learning about what their parents were hearing about, the pictures were all various scenes involving Paul in some way or another. About halfway through the service, I looked over to see that several of the boys had used green markers to color in Paul’s face and hands. I was confused…until I realized that they had crossed out the title of the picture and written in “The Incredible Hulk”.
I had to laugh, knowing that they didn’t really understand what they were coloring. They had no idea who Paul was or why he’s important, so they turned him into a fictional superhero with some serious anger issues.
It is so interesting to me that that’s something that we begin to do at an early age. I mean, isn’t it just like us to change something confusing into something we can more easily comprehend?
I find myself doing this often. If I come across something that I am unfamiliar with, I try to fit it into what I already know. One thing that is particularly difficult for me to grasp right now is grace. Because I can’t quite wrap my mind around it, I find myself painting an inaccurate picture of what it means to be forgiven, of what it means to have the mercy of the Lord extended to me.
That’s a misconception that I run into a lot; I talk with women regularly who think that they are beyond redemption. The concept of being given a clean slate is unfathomable to them. They can’t understand how that could ever be possible, so they twist Jesus’ words and come to believe that those promises are for someone else more deserving, that there is certainly no way forgiveness would ever be offered to them.
They–rather, we–cheapen his grace and make it into something easier to understand. Instead of viewing it as a complete restoration, we make grace out to be a quick fix, akin to throwing a fancy sheet over a ripped piece of furniture because company’s coming over.
That’s not what it is at all, though! As broken as we are, we have to be made completely new. I love to think about how Jesus must delight in knowing that he gets to piece us back together and cover us with his sticky, messy grace. It makes me think of glue, how it covers and holds together but usually makes it pretty evident to everyone looking on that something was once in need of fixing.
I’ve heard stories from women who have been rescued from years of drug abuse and prostitution, shame and self-loathing, destructive behaviors and thought patterns, and I am always amazed at how open they are about their pasts. They spare no detail when talking about the things they were once involved in because they want it to be so obvious that they were able to overcome them solely by the grace of God.
Without Him, they would still be trapped. Really, without Him, we are ALL bound up and enslaved to something.
It is only by His grace that we are freed, and we need to embrace that and continue to learn about what it means to truly be forgiven so we don’t keep living in such a way so as to suggest that we don’t know what the implications of that are. And then, when we begin to recognize what it truly means to be forgiven, we need to share it with everyone we know. Because why would we ever want to keep something like that to ourselves?