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Greetings All,

I came across a good book on vacation. It's called "Messy Faith - Daring to Live By Grace," by a lady named A. J. Gregory. This 'thought' was taken from the first chapter, and has to do with forgiveness, starting over, and what it means to live by grace in light of a shameful past.

Those who have had to wrestle with such memories will understand her words far more than those who didn't stumble down the path of the prodigal. Yet I trust that those who did, like myself,
will appreciate the words she has to say. Enjoy.

A. J. speaks of growing up to believe we merit good things only by being good. The better we are, the better the things that should happen to us (an idea often reinforced in the church).

Yet for her that was a problem, since as she goes on to point out, "I was used to feeling like everything I did was wrong or not good enough..." and "good stuff happening as a result of a not-so-perfect life seemed plain wrong." The concept of grace was obviously foreign to her at this point.

"What did I do?" she asks. "What any paranoid, overanalytical and broken woman would do. I put together a list of all the reasons why God shouldn't bless me, and I recited it to him with great passion. I reminded him about the mistakes I have made and do make. Drumroll, please... Remember when I drank so much I threw up in that country club? Remember when I abused my insides and squandered my emotional and mental health by being bulimic for ten years? Remember when I tried cocaine? Remember how long it took for me to develop a stable devotional life? Remember when I was a closet smoker? Remember how last week I couldn't stop staring at one of myclients' muscular arms?... I talked about a wide range of stuff...

I'll be honest: I got sick of the self-diatribe. It didn't make me feel better. It didn't strengthen my spirituality. It didn't make me think of how I could better myself. But it did stir up a desire to slit my wrists out of sheer frustration...

So getting back to the issue of what we do or do not deserve: Have you ever truly thought about it? It's a tough question to honestly meditate on, let alone answer. Do I 'deserve' to fall in love? Do I 'deserve' to be in good health? Do I 'deserve' not to reap a consequence of what I sow when my neighbor, who did the same thing as me, is now dealing with some agonizing repercussions? Do I 'deserve' something better or worse than the young lady sitting two pews down from me in church? Do I 'deserve' an instantaneous miracle? Do I 'deserve' to have all my prayers answered? For that matter, do you?

I think what I deserve is to trust God in all things. To give him custody of my circumstances, my dreams, my desires, and my life. I deserve to be honest and authentic in my walk with him and to allow him to repair my brokenness and to make straight my crookedness. I deserve to rest in peace instead of wrestle with unanswerable questions. I deserve to be surprised at his leadings instead of forcing him to act out my poorly-written script.

Perhaps one of the hardest things to accept is that I deserve to let go of my mistakes, to mourn my losses and finally put my shambles to rest. I deserve to bury the sins I have been forgiven for. Why? Simply because he says so. If we are truly repentant of what we have done wrong, what happens? Does God keep a list of those things in his file cabinet for future purposes? Does he go through a database of old sins, compare them with the new ones, and get frustrated that we still haven't learned our lesson in entirety? Does he whip out a flip chart and start tabulating the number of times we have asked for forgiveness?

Hebrews 8:12 tells us he 'will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.' The book of Jeremiah agrees: 'For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more....' If God forgets them, why don't we? Why do we torture ourselves by constantly replaying slow-motion clips of when and how we messed up?

Maybe the word 'deserve' is not the best word to use for all of these things, but I believe these are the gifts that he gives us... What a waste of emotions and energies when we beat ourselves into a bloody pulp and refuse to fall into Love's open arms. I'm not a theologian by any means, but I am sure that doing that has got to be some sort of sin. Spiritual masochism certainly doesn't offer us any benefits except the guarantee of self-sabotage and misery."

Hard to say it better! In Him, Pastor Jeff
Dr. Jeffrey F. Evans