Grace, Legalism, Brow Beating, and how a group text changed my perspective…
Updated: Jun 1, 2020
I did not grow up in a Christian home. I am not one of those kids that grew up hearing the bible stories and going to church. I am just now learning many of the traditional introductory bible stories for kids as I teach them to my own daughter. As a kid we went on Easter Sunday and to special events with my grandparents but that was about it. I did not have bible time at night like we do with our daughter; I do not remember ever praying before we ate (other than on holidays at my grandparents), I don’t remember having my parents get down on their knees at night with me to pray before bed, all as my husband and I do now with our child. I went to public school so my experience with prayer was our short moment of silence; my experience of God was my legalistic brow beating Grandmother. I LOVE my grandma, I miss her so much and I see her in my mind’s eye every time I go to my dad’s farm, but her way of making God known was through legalism and brow beating
(for the non-believers or new believers – legalism is the act of putting works/acts/duties above the salvation of Christ, the thought that a certain obedience or act wins you salvation and favor above others and brown beating is trying to scare people into believing, telling them about the horrors of Hell to serve as your message of a relationship to God instead of using His grace as the message of salvation and eternity)
I don’t remember my grandmother ever sharing with me the grace and love that Jesus has other than the obligatory, “Jesus loves you” as she would hug me goodbye, I would always roll my eyes as she hugged me and just go on about my business. I know part of it was her generation and part of it was how she was taught the bible. I do believe my grandmother is now in the presence of God and her misinterpretation of how to make disciples did not hinder her personal relationship with Christ. I have to say that other than once or twice going to a lock-in with a friend from school or to Sunday school with a friend that I had a pretty small understanding and limited knowledge of God as a kid. I remember my dad beginning to go to church somewhere around the mid-nineties, I would have been in high school and he started giving his life to Christ, I saw the changes through him, I did not know what it meant but I did see the changes in my dad the limited time I had with him as a teen. Even then I continued on in my life with little knowledge or even thought of God, it is not that I didn’t believe, or was against God, I just didn’t think about it, I just walked through life with the world as my guide, not God. I came into my early twenties with the same thought process and lived my life, I went to college, graduated, got a job, and was a decent person, I suppose, I don’t know really how to define it, I certainly tried not to hurt people and tried to make moral choices from what my moral compass was without Christ in my life (that is a whole other discussion, I often wonder without God, what drives people’s moral compass?) Anyhoo… During this time I saw my mom start to go to church, she began to listen to Christian music and I saw her life start to change a little, but honestly I still ignored the thought of being Christian, my mom certainly did not brow beat, but she did try to tell me things in my life that I was doing wrong according to her new found belief and as a typical rebelling 19/20 year old I did not want to hear it, I wanted to continue living life my way and I thought I was happy doing it and felt like I wasn’t hurting anyone so it was fine (although the person I was really hurting without a relationship with Christ was myself). Again, it was not that I didn’t believe there was a God, nor was I against Him, I just wasn’t concerned with finding out anything about Him, because in my limited knowledge I went back to my grandmothers legalism and her brow beating and thought if that is what it’s about, it is ok from some people but I will continue on my own way. It was around the time I met my husband or shortly after we started dating that my heart began a longing that I can only explain as supernatural. I was around 22 years old and I tried to fill this unexplained longing with things this world says will fill me up, I had a tiny cheap apartment so I got a bigger nicer more expensive one, I bought nice clothes, I bought expensive name brand things, I took vacations and did everything this world says will fulfill your life, but in the end the longing for something more never stopped, and sure I did find happiness for a moment in my multiple closets full of clothes, my larger living but it was always short lived and the longing in my heart for something greater always returned. Never in my thought process did I think my heart was longing for Jesus, never did it occur to me that my soul was crying out to be in relationship with Him. I am sure it does not occur to many that the longing they feel is a natural desire for God, I am certain that is why many of us continue to attempt to find satisfaction in the things of this world and when it fails to fulfill the longing, people take their life, they turn to drugs or alcohol or more stuff to try to fill the void not realizing we are made to desire God, we are made to seek a relationship and be filled with Christ.
From age 22 to 24 I spent a lot of time at my work goggling things on God and Jesus, just at random, because having little knowledge of God but lots of knowledge of this world, of course I would turn to goggle instead of the bible. I had a very slow and easy retail job so literally there were days I would read online about God for nearly nine hours. I told my dad I was thinking about finding a church and he spent several hours with me sitting at my work telling me about God and what He had found in Christ. I spoke to my boyfriend (now husband) and he talked with me some and was supportive in whatever I wanted to do. He grew up just the opposite of me, he grew up in church, he was in the worship band, he worked for a Christian music artist, he went to a private Christian school but at this point in his life he had walked away from church (and that is his story to tell not mine) but at this time in our life he was right alongside me just living life, we were good people I would like to say, we worked, came home, paid our bills, we were honest and still the first to try to help a friend when needed, we were living together out of marriage but didn’t feel bad about it because we loved one another and used that as our moral basis, we spent the occasional evening at the bar watching a football game or talking with friends, we were not immoral people, but we certainly were not living our life for Christ, we were living our life for ourselves and the pleasures this world. When I came to Lee and said I think I want to go to church and maybe change somethings in my life, he was supportive and I started going to a traditional church alone without him(where our daughter coincidentally now goes to school). As Lee saw me go and continue to go, he said why we don’t go try this other church out together; I know the worship leader from my days working in Christian music, so we took our first trip to where nearly 12 years later we call our church home. I wish I could tell you that visit changed our lives forever and from that point on I found Christ and Lee returned to Him but we didn’t, we went that one time and both sort of fell back into old patterns, we returned to choosing Football and breakfast at Cracker Barrel on Sundays over church, we continued leading our own life and not surrendering to Christ.
Time went on, we were married, and the first year was hard, living together for two years before marriage you would think that a piece of paper and a name change would not change much but it did, it was a hard year. My husband lost his job due to layoffs, I finished up my Master’s degree and took a job with the same employer I had been with for years but I took on a very stressful role with a long commute and we just seemed to be floating through life with no direction of the future. We came to a pivotal point where we had to make a change or we were going to fall apart. We revisited that same church we had a couple years before, now they had a newer additional building because the church had grown substantially since we had made our first visit (and now they have an even newer one because people keep coming, praise God), we started going back every week, we started praying and getting to know God. I would like to tell you for me it was like the flip of a switch and I was instantly changed but it certainly has been ten years of a work in progress to surrender my life to Christ. I know our lives are far different than they were ten years ago, I know we pray together, encourage one another with God’s word, we seek to serve others, and learn more about God and His plan for our life, we try to know God and make Him known, but often I still fail as I did years ago, I fail God differently but I still fail in my relationship with Him (as is apparent in my previous writings).
I failed God today, I passed judgement on something someone was experiencing and for lack of better words I brow beated and tried to shake Jesus into them. If you are a believer you may know this feeling, this sin of judgment where you see people that fall victim to the deceptions of this world and you just want to grab them and shake them and scream, what you are worried about does not matter, you need to focus your life on Christ, you need to surrender your heart and what you are worried about will seem like a flutter in the distance! You pass judgment with frustration in their lack of relationship, you pass judgment with a lack of grace, and instead you judge and try to shove Jesus in their face like a holy martyr. If you are a believer and have not done this, then I truly need to learn from you because so often I find frustration with the lack of surrendering I see (even though I myself struggle to completely surrender); I react and instead of providing grace and giving love, I pass judgement and this is where I fail Him and I also fail those I judge. It took my husband showing me that while some people’s pain is inconsequential in the knowledge of the God we serve, to them it is pain no less. To the burdened we need to offer understanding and the love needed to lead them to where God will provide them with the real fulfillment that Christ can bring into their life, but just like my grandma didn’t win me over to God’s side, we are not going to win their attention or change their focus by diminishing or trivializing what they deem important. Only God can change their perspective and fill their longings. It is our job to make Him known by providing understanding, grace, and leadership, not reducing their actions, emotions, or prayers as things “that should not matter” – After this moment today I really reflected on my own testimony and journey with God and how I have surrendered over and over the last ten years only to try to take back control from God. I reflected how even though I have never prayed for “stuff” in my prayer life, such as land or a home, or anything that is of this world, I certainly pray continually for circumstances to occur in my life that make me happy, circumstances that will fill me up, circumstances that make life easy to walk through, such as healing, wellness and removal of pain and hardship. Some may read this and think as I did earlier today that it is not the same to pray for stuff and to pray for healing, and I was in total agreement until today. Whether you pray for stuff to fulfill your life to make you happy or you pray for health and wellness so you can walk through life without hardship, you are still praying for happiness to exist in the life of this world, you are still praying for a joy to fill you up when God should be filling you with everything you need in spite of your circumstances whether material in nature or not.
Today made me reflect so much on my last writing, “It is well with my soul” because is it really well with my soul? I am trying in my prayer life to just praise and honor God for who He is and His provision as He sees fit, for His will to be done and for my heart to align with His will, but I still find myself praying for all things to work out in my life for my easiness to diminish any pain and hardship I may not want to face. I don’t need to be so quick to judge the person praying for land or the person heartbroken over a home sale that fell through, I should be concerned with being a light for them in the midst of heartache regardless of what ails their heart. I should be looking “at the plank in my own eye” and realizing that my prayers for God to solve the hardships in my life are no different than anyone else asking for something in theirs.
If you disagree with me that is ok, this is about my journey to know God and make Him known, about how He reveals to ME the ways I fail to serve Him, my walk may not look like yours and that is ok. He has called me, a meek, shy, quiet person to faithfully step out in fear of judgment and attention to show others how each and every time I fail Him, He continues to show me the light and He continues to leads me back into step with Him.