Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Journey of Grace

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

“I shouldn’t get to play video games today,” my 12 year old exclaimed. You’re not kidding! I thought to myself. But out loud I said, “No you shouldn’t. But that’s what grace is all about Peter. You need to give it to yourself just like I’m giving it to you, just like God gives it to you.”

Wow, there are so many lessons in that little paragraph.

First, some background. The past 2 years as Peter struggled with his physical decline, loss of mobility and increased loss of skills, he also struggled both to accept himself and to deal appropriately with his extreme frustration. Throw two intense parents in the mix with a rather sparse parenting tool kit for this age, add heavy doses of pre-teen adolescent attitude and hormones, compound it with his inability to recognize the appropriateness of emotional responses caused by the mito disease, and you have one really explosive situation. Our failed attempts of management eventually led us to add some medication and counseling into the mix. We tried a behavior management plan/reward system to teach Peter he could control consequences and results based on his choices.

To this reward system Peter spoke. With his video game time now linked to his communication skills, he found motivation to communicate with words rather than his fists. After 3 weeks of intense counsel individually and within our family, Peter demonstrated enough stability and consistency to regain some consistent but limited time with his beloved video games. The daily reward system remained in place, but we wanted to acknowledge his progress and show our belief in him. On this day, a few added issues caused some bumps in the road: physical pain from a loose tooth, a visit from grandparents that although fun changed up the routine, and some medical instability with his GI system – all increased energy demands on a system struggling to keep up. Pressures and frustrations eventually won out and Peter had a major meltdown.

What I found most interesting as we worked through the aftermath was his intolerance of himself. He thoroughly understood that his behavior deserved punishment. For that I was thankful. But now he struggled to understand grace and the importance of effort and progress. I wanted him to understand that the failures of that one day caused one consequence in his daily reward system. It affected one day. But it did not negate the improved effort and progress demonstrated over the longer time period. He needed to understand the process of improvement, that it’s not a pass/fail experience, but a journey where grace can be involved.

How often do we struggle with the same issues? We fight some weakness in our life, vow to do better, but then give up as soon as a setback occurs. How freeing to know that God’s grace always stands ready. ALL our sins, past, present, and future, were already purchased and paid for once and for all. God doesn’t expect perfection, he expects effort. He knows it’s only through His Spirit that we can achieve righteousness. All we can do is diligently turn to Him for help and grace and strength. All we can do is choose, and with more practice, the ability to choose the right thing increases.

I see this in the life of Abraham. I’ve often struggled at the honor God and the scriptures attribute to a man who consistently lied and messed things up. James 2:23 says he was called God’s friend. Yet he consistently tried to make God’s promises come true and failed to trust God to do it. But then I saw Genesis 15:6 which is repeated in Romans 4, Galatians 3 and James 2: Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness. Abraham’s perfect life didn’t make him God’s friend. It was the fact that he believed God. God knew Abraham was a sinner that needed forgiveness. Abraham could not address his sinful nature himself. But he could believe God’s words and accept His help. This belief and consistent turning to God made him God’s friend.

Are you beating yourself up today over a weakness, a fault, or mistake? Do you struggle to forgive yourself and refuse to accept the grace God offers? Can you understand that God’s love differs from ours? There are no conditions. It’s ready and waiting for you to accept; a gift that frees us to get back up and try again with His help. Won’t you receive it today?

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