My leader in college told me that I didn't believed in grace.
Excuse me? I am 19 years old and have grown up in the church. I obviously believe in grace... Alright, so I got a little defensive. I decided to give examples of how I believe in God's grace... they just happen to all be in relation to other people. He immediately pointed out that I believe and embrace grace when it comes to others, but I don't believe in God's grace in relation to myself. That conversation has stuck with me. It truly is easy for me to preach grace, but I can't get my mind or heart around it when it involves ME.
I have done some really crappy things. Especially to people who I care about. I have been selfish, used, abused, and flat out betrayed the people who mean the most to me. Yet, I hate hurting people. I can't forgive myself. I don't feel like I deserve my own forgiveness, let alone the other person's. So I definitely don't deserve the Lord's forgiveness and unconditional love. It eats away at me. Then I do something else crappy, and it all piles up. Seems like an endless cycle.
“When the mask of self-righteousness has been torn from us and we stand stripped of all our accustomed defenses, we are candidates for God's generous grace.” -Erwin W. Lutzer
I feel like I need to earn what I receive. I have done way too much crap to deserve God's grace. If I accept God's grace then I will have the mindset of "oh well, I can sin, God forgives me no matter what." It just all terrifies me. Somehow I can look at grace as a lose-lose situation. This is totally the mask of self-righteousness. I want to be stripped of all my defenses.
"That is the mystery of grace: it never comes too late." -François Mauriac
Now I don't know that any of our small human brains can completely understand grace, but I do think God made our hearts to be capable of accepting it. (“We cannot "psychologize" the grace of God. God's actions are outside and above our human sciences.” -John Powell) Grace is defined as "the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God; the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them; a virtue or excellence of divine origin." That is so beautiful. Still pretty impossible to get my mind around, but beautiful nonetheless.
I will leave you with some more wonderful quotes by much smarter people on grace. I know it is a lot, but they all seemed powerful to me. I italicized and made bold what really spoke to me...
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone be found boasting. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:8-10
“The burden of life is from ourselves, its lightness from the grace of Christ and the love of God.” -William Bernard Ullanthorne
“The law detects, grace alone conquers sin.” - Saint Augustine of Hippo
“Grace isn't a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It's a way to live."-Dwight Lyman Moody
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
“Grace is available for each of us every day - our spiritual daily bread - but we've got to remember to ask for it with a grateful heart and not worry about whether there will be enough for tomorrow.” - Sarah Ban Breathnach
“Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines him to bestow benefits upon the undeserving. It is a self-existent principle inherent in the divine nature and appears to us as a self-caused propensity to pity the wretched, spare the guilty, welcome the outcast, and bring into favor those who were before under just disapprobation. Its use to us sinful men is to save us and make us sit together in heavenly places to demonstrate to the ages the exceeding riches of God's kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” -A. W. Tozer
“The grace of God is infinite and eternal. As it had no beginning, so it can have no end, and being an attribute of God, it is as boundless as infinitude.”
“Grace is God himself, his loving energy at work within his church and within our souls.” - Evelyn Underhill
I am so thankful for all that I am learning about God's grace. I am continually working towards opening up my heart, but I have come to accept the (earthly) life-long struggle. I am grateful that I have a God who thinks I am worth it. I'm also grateful for a leader who would call me out on my lack of faith and acceptance of all that God is capable of (although I resented that comment for years).