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I think that the revelation of grace is one of the best kept secrets of all time. People hear about grace, read about grace, talk about grace, sing about grace and even extend grace to others all the time, but very few seem to really “get it.”

I was raised in church my entire childhood. We were there every week an hour early for “Sunday School” and then stayed for the actual church service. We went to weekday services between Sundays, and I always attended or worked at summer Bible schools and camps.  I was blessed not to be in a fear based “hell-fire” atmosphere. There was a lot of love there and focus on giving to the poor. We were taught the actual Bible and not watered down stories even as kids so I had a very good foundation in teachings about grace, and one would think that grace would be a no brainer for me.

But my own experience is that grace really is a revelation or an epiphany that takes place in the soul or spirit. It is hard to describe it in words because it is almost beyond words. The word is “grace” and that does not really explain it. I have found that when I try to explain it to people they either light up with recognition because they have had this epiphany themselves or they look at me with eyes of confusion because they either do not understand what I am saying or they think that I am saying something wrong…I don’t know.

It was not until later in my adulthood that I had the realization of grace. And when I did I honestly felt as if I had been born into a new life.

I walked around in awe telling people “I feel like I have been struggling to get through a very tight dark womb and have finally been born into the light of the free world.”

The experience for me was so intense that I worried that people might think that I was a little “crazy.” They probably did.

I  remember saying, “Oh! This must be what those people mean when they say “born again!” But do they even know it?”

So what is it? How do I find the words?

Well I used to think that I had to try really hard to be “good.” I had to struggle to “do the right thing” all the time. I had to work hard. I had to help everyone that needed anything. I had to “be there” for everyone all the time. I had to strive and strain to achieve perfection, and with all of this hard work I would one day “arrive” at this Christ like state of being.

I would drop everything in my own life and help others…friends, family…no matter what. I was doing many “good” things for others. I was ALWAYS there if they needed me and not just there as a friend or in comfort, but I was there doing everything ..being everything…..I was playing God!

I was the one that they came too for literally EVERYTHING. I was very co-dependent. I was being their Holy Spirit. With me around no one had any need to go to God for anything. I had all of the answers and all of the help available 24 hours a day…Haha!

I was getting my self worth from “helping” everyone else…from being needed…from trying so hard to be good…to be God.

I was also getting more and more drained, depleted, and resentful. People never gave as much to me as I did to them. My own life and all of my own problems and issues were conveniently being ignored by me, and my own life was not going so great. I even dropped out of college several times because there was ALWAYS a big crisis in my dysfunctional family during the semester, and I would turn all of my focus onto that drama instead of my own life. Co-dependence is just another form of escapism.

So the revelation of grace did not happen overnight. I guess it was a lifelong process that finally came to a head, but when it finally clicked it seemed like it happened all of a sudden.

I realized that all of this trying and struggling and being everything to everyone was wrong. This is not the way to grow into the Christ-like being of love that I was hoping to emulate.

I realized that Christ does indeed dwell within me (Ephesians 3:17)…that the Holy Spirit is inside me (1 John 4:13)…that God which is love is within my very heart, soul, spirit and body.

I, like every human, am a unique creation. I am created specifically a certain way in order to express a unique aspect of God (love) on this planet at this time. I am created “in the image of God.” I, like everyone, am a unique ray of God’s immense love. This is cliché, but there has never been nor will there ever be another expression of God’s love on earth that is exactly like me so if I am not my true self…the “self” that I was created to be… then the world will not experience this unique aspect of God’s image ever again. In being my true “child of God” self I am fulfilling my purpose.

Grace is not about how hard I try, how much I do, how good I am, how much I struggle to be something.

Grace is about surrender…letting go…allowing the spark of God that I carry within me which is without limits…without fear…eternal and infinite to come alive on this limited 3 dimensional earth in this limited 3 dimensional body that I live in for this finite time.

It is nothing that I have or can ever earn by working hard and following rules, but as I surrender to this gift which is given to me because of the love of God that is within me and around me I am then COMPELLED to do the good things…the loving things that I was uniquely created to do.

I am no longer struggling to prove myself to God or others in order to earn love, approval, or status. I no longer have to wear myself out to do everything right and to be everything to everyone in order to achieve a Christ-like state of being.

When I let go of all of the struggling and trying and working, and I release myself from my inner task master in order to surrender to the spirit of love (Christ) that is within me I almost naturally but also supernaturally begin to walk on the path of fulfilling the purpose and doing the good works that God has purposed for me and my life……And that does not include every good work that my poor body can possibly do.

Yes…sometimes I catch myself slipping back into my co-dependent ways. I do not have it all perfectly figured out. I have not “arrived”

But I can at least catch it now at some point before it gets out of control because of the revelation of the grace of God which is given to me by the grace of God.

*”Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”   Matthew 11: 28-30 (Jesus’ words) emphasis mine

* “What I’m saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”   Luke 14:11 (Jesus’ words)(emphasis mine)

* “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”  Romans 8:1

* “If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan.

 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.”   Galatians 2: 18-21

Just like a mighty Oak Tree receives the light of heaven freely through its branches,

As I reach toward heaven the love of God flows freely through me by grace.

Just as the tree is nourished all the way to its roots by the sun,

So am I nourished through and through with the light of God.

As the tree sways in harmony with the breeze while remaining firmly rooted to the dark womb of earth,

I remain solidly grounded as I am moved in a dance like flow by the breath of the Holy Creator.

Everywhere I look nature teaches me about the love of the one who created it.

And in looking at the tree I am reminded that I too am a conduit between heaven and earth.
As I gently walk the earth in this dense physical body totally open-hearted and surrendered in spirit,

The love of Christ flows to me and through me, and I humbly become a bringer of heaven to earth.

I believe that every person’s life has purpose. Every person has a part to play in this drama that we call life. It is so easy to get absorbed into our own world, to put on the blinders of separateness and to lose sight of how we are connected to a much larger picture than just our small day to day routine. We are all a piece of a greater puzzle. We are a note in a much fuller, more harmonious song. Our lives are threads in a beautiful tapestry.  Life really is a dance with a pattern that touches and connects with others all along the way, and we usually have no idea of the impact both positively and negatively that we have on the whole picture.

This concept is expressed so simply and perfectly in the classic Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.” If you have seen the movie you know that when just an ordinary man, George Bailey, has his life erased from existence it causes a domino effect of disturbing changes in the lives around him and even lives of those he does not even know.

When one person touches other lives even in small ways then the lives that she touches then effect other people which then touch others and the ripple expands throughout the world. And this includes positive as well as negative impacts.

So with this in mind I have been wondering why so many people feel that they do not fit in? When you see the big picture it is obvious that everyone has to fit in, but so many people feel that they do not. So many people feel isolated and separate and unimportant. And many times we as humans perpetuate this belief by refusing to connect with others on any deep level. We do seem to push people out many times and add to this illusion of separateness and lack of life purpose.

Sometimes we don’t go as far as making someone an outcast, but we just deal with people on a surface level. We keep many acquaintances and call them our friends. Why are we as humans so intent on making some people feel like they are not a part of things, and why are we so fearful of connecting with others in a real way?

The more that I learn about people the more I see that we are all so similar. We are all so insecure sometimes. Even that person that you see and you think that they have it all together…they have it all figured out…they have it so great….well, they are insecure too.

We would all be so much more fulfilled if we embraced the connection that we have to everyone…if we embraced our similarities and our differences….if we broke through our fears and illusions….if we embraced one another.

This is a very hard planet to live on really.

I know. I know. …Many are thinking “But there is so much beauty! You just have to be positive! I am happy.” And believe me…I understand all of that. And it is true too, but suffering is also a very real part of living on planet earth, and it is happening all around us….everywhere… right now.

Suffering is a great equalizer for all of humanity. In our suffering we really are all the same. For example, when a tsunami hits and everything is washed away including loved ones it no longer matters who is wealthy and who is poor, or who has a PHD and who is uneducated, or who is male or female, or who is old or young, or who is popular or unpopular and so on and so on. None of it means anything at all when everyone has lost it all. The suffering makes us all equal, and we are all in it together. Suffering tears down all of our superficial facades. It strips away our separateness, and in our human suffering….we are one.

The same is true for all kinds of suffering: abuse, losing a loved one too soon, sickness, natural disasters, etc….All causes of suffering make everything else fade away, and we all become the same human when we are in those situations together. And sadly suffering is an integral and inescapable part of the human condition.

Even Jesus Christ…God incarnate…Living Word…King of Kings…Light of the World….

……..When he became human and came to be with us on this earth in the flesh…..he too was stripped of everything and experienced suffering at its worst. He became one of us and one with us. He, in his great love and humility, shared in this human condition of suffering with us and for us. To be fully human is to endure suffering.

This is a bitter pill to swallow.