Early in my life I realized that following the rules earned the affirmation of my parents. When I did what they told me, they were happy. When I didn’t do what they told me, they were unhappy and it usually brought the pain of a spanking. Each interaction with my parents confirmed following the rules made me a good person.
I grew up in a religion that demanded you conform. We had a standard for everything. Don’t wear that. Don’t watch that. Don’t go there. Don’t talk to them. Don’t question. Don’t have your own ideas. Don’t EVER leave. I learned to follow the rules, keep my head down and my mouth shut.
I memorized the scriptures that would remind me that I needed to follow the rules. Ephesians 6:1 ~ Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Colossians 3:20 ~ Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Hebrews 13:17 ~ Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. I would read the scriptures and ask God to help me follow them. And beg forgiveness when I failed. Daily.
Each year I’d pledge to do better. I made promises to try a little harder. To stay more focused on conforming to the image of Christ. Quit trying to complain about the standards. The standards that I found stifling. The ones that made me feel frumpy and unloved. The ones that I could only conclude were created to make us look good to the people we were not allowed to befriend.
One day, grace met me. Sweet amazing grace. I cried until my soul was poured out. Forever changed by something that I didn’t quite understand.
Returning to a place that told me I was worthless was hard. Years of conditioning kept me returning. One day I just couldn’t go. So I didn’t. For the first time in my life I didn’t follow the rules.
I find myself speaking of grace to those I knew. The are confused. How can I speak with such confidence of my salvation while wearing jeans and talking about watching football with my husband? How is it that I cannot stop talking, thinking, singing about Jesus yet I reject the faith of my childhood? Didn’t they tell my parents to raise me right and I’d never depart? What happened?
Grace doesn’t conform to man’s idea of what is righteous. It doesn’t promote standards of dress, behavior or speech. It doesn’t demand that you only listen to the ancient hymns or special songs written by the saints. It doesn’t require that you shun your brother because they don’t believe as you. It will never look, feel or sound like we think. Because it comes from the heart of God. And what man can claim that he knows the heart of God?
Jesus said, “..for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” (Luke 6:45). This was a parable pointed at the heart of the Pharisees. They were righteous on the outside, but inside were rotten to the core. When I meet someone I no longer look at their outside appearance. I listen for the sound of my Jesus. In their words. The ones spoken from the depths of their soul. Sometimes raw and edgy. But always speaking of the one who came and offered them something that changed their hearts.
Recently I was introduced to this website, I Am Second. Film after film tells a story of grace that intervenes. The stories are raw…edgy…modern day stories of the lost Jesus came to save. Like the Pharisees of Jesus day, there are those who criticize these stories. Some still work in entertainment, befriend the prostitutes, play rock music or embrace life after divorce. They say, “If they are truly saved, their life would LOOK different.” It makes me sad. Somewhere in the last 2,000 years we lost sight of just how amazing grace is.
My life has been changed. I cannot … won’t quit talking about it. I want you to experience when non-conforming grace touches your life and transforms your mind.
Amazing grace. How sweet the sound. I once was lost but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.
Pure. Absolute. Bliss.