Finding Grace

Over the past 19 years, I’ve been part of a lot of Bible study groups. I’ve got stacks of well-worn study books that I just can’t throw out, because so much of my journey is on those pages. Sometimes when I tell people I love Bible study, or that I’m hosting a study, their faces reveal no shortage doubt, confusion, and hesitation. I suspect that the assumption is that spending an evening with a group of people talking about the Bible is possibly the most boring thing you could possibly choose. What’s a girl like me doing in Bible study? I’m picturing a lot of frowning, yawning, cold coffee and buttoned-up cardigans. There must be something more interesting to do. Don’t the cat’s toenails need to be clipped? (Don’t underestimate the exciting work of owning a Bengal kitten.)

These living rooms and family rooms of people gathering around our common wrestling through faith, have been sacred space that I don’t like living without, and they’ve been far from boring. We drink coffee and tea and eat great snacks (especially on the nights where the topic is tough) and discuss faith, love, grace, vulnerability and God’s power to transform us. We’ve dreamed, we’ve grieved, we’ve celebrated, we’ve prayed and we’ve known friendship on a far deeper level than I knew was possible.

My Tuesday night study group just finished a study of David, the shepherd who became king, a man after God’s own heart, who was messed up beyond belief and experienced and did unthinkably awful things. Murder. Rape. Not punishing the crimes of his children. The murder of his son, by one of his other sons. Friends, some of the chapters we read got real ugly.

As we read and debated tough things – like, does God actually love everyone? Can anything be forgiven?, we agree that this is something we’re all grasping at. We might be in various stages of understanding how God extends His grace, but this living room of stumbling, fumbling, beloved children of God knows that we continually need grace.  None more than this one. My Birkman score tells me that I’m enormously self-critical, and I know all my faults. On a bad day, I could name them one by one, and probably not run out of areas I see myself falling short.

There is something of grace that is so incredibly unbelievable. Beautiful, intangible and wonderful. So difficult to understand and accept, although I so want to experience and grab hold of it and not let go. Something that says that, despite my faults, I am more than enough. I am more than forgiven, I’m loved. I’m more than loved, I’m liked and chosen. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it changes everything.

There’s a book that’s been at my bedside for quite a while. I found this phrase – tucked in the middle of chapter six of Max Lucado’s book Grace, which brings so much relief to my self-critical heart:

“Mercy gave Ruth some food. Grace gave her a husband and a home.

Mercy gave the prodigal son a second chance. Grace gave him a party.”

Do you hear that? Do you see it? There is this grace that extends far beyond mercy to do exceedingly more that we could ever deserve. Such generosity can feel risky and a lot like freedom. It’s this grace that makes mercy not enough, because there’s something better. It’s the difference between being loved, and wanting to make yourself loveable.

This is the grace that gives widows the courage to immigrate to a foreign land, and which encourages the no-good son who wished his father dead to risk going home home just in case he might find mercy. This is the grace that takes a sin-riddled King with a tender, repentant heart and goes beyond forgiveness to make him the very-very-great grandfather of Jesus. This is the grace that I found as a 20 year-old, as my friends and I chose to spend our evenings trying to figure out the mysterious and wonderful God that we discovered in His Word. (Which, you might note, is not necessarily the most “cool” way for a young person to spend their free time.)

I often still feel like a recovering prodigal, just lucky to get a bit of mercy. And then God shows up day after day and offers grace. It’s why I want to know the Word of God – because in its promises I’ve found grace. Treasure. Promise. Freedom. Discovering these treasures with my friends, makes them even sweeter. Kind of like finding a killer deal on a fabulous new outfit that fits like a glove, in your favourite colour, with a friend who can share your excitement – but even better.

And this is the grace extended to all of us, grace-thirsty fumblers living in a world lacking in mercy, let alone generous grace – and I believe that it’s often the reason we want to be a part of these groups of people who gather in living rooms trying to unravel some of this mystery together. People who are often not connected in any other way, sometimes. My Bible study friends are true soul sisters. Friends who pray for me, see beyond my surface, and who might just leave a treat on the doorstep in the middle of a weary week (true story: I opened the door to the yummiest rhubarb muffins just yesterday, left as a gift from a Bible study sister who suspected I might need a bit of refreshing.) Friends who are learning to receive, extend and celebrate grace. They help me believe the God who doesn’t count my faults, but knows the hairs on my head. Who doesn’t name my errors one by one, but who says I’m created for a purpose. Who goes beyond forgiveness, to weave my brokenness together for good. Whose grace gives me a calling, and a community to help me get it as they live it out.

Here’s the best part, if you’re recovering prodigal like me: He wants to throw you a party. How about you let Him? He might just do it with a living room of your new, best, imperfect friends.

If you’re looking for a fun summer study, I’d highly recommend my friend Holley’s You’re Already Amazing Summer Study. No matter where you are, you can join me and a bunch of girls from all over the world, online!

Holley Gerth Linkup