For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. – Ephesians 2:8
I woke up a few days ago feeling the intense weight of condemnation. It was a vague, unsettling feeling that I could have done better for my children. Accusations clobbered me:
- You’re selfish.
- You didn’t give the kids enough fun experiences when they were small.
- You should have gone swimming with them instead of sitting by the pool reading.
- Remember that time you yelled at them at the store? What were you thinking?!
- You’re ruining their lives.
It’s happened before. My friends encourage me to take an objective look at my life. They renew my perspective. “You’re doing a great job!” they say. Still, I know that at times I have failed my kids, so the accusations gain a foothold in my soul.
Note the effect: When I accept accusations, I become ineffective. I lose my joy. I snap at my kids, inviting more guilt. I put on the heavy yoke of religious law-keeping, trying to be the perfect mom. My children become unhappy, even oppressed. It’s not a pretty sight.
I suspect I’m not the only one. Our fast-paced culture promotes too much activity, and this hectic lifestyle drains our energy, leaving us prone to strained relationships and the attendant guilt. We don’t realize that relief is only a prayer away.
As I reached out to God, I remembered that honesty is foundational to the Christian life. Being a sinner is not the problem. The problem is trying to hide it. Some accusations are simply lies; but some carry the sting of partial truth. Confession and forgiveness robs them of their power. We can confidently respond, “Yes, I failed there. It’s forgiven, and I’m not looking back. By grace, I am not that person anymore. I have a new identity – so back off!”
The effects of grace are peace. As God poured grace onto my trigger-happy conscience, my joy returned. My children and I had a peaceful, happy day, lived on the foundation of unconditional love.
We learned in church yesterday that spiritual warfare is fought in the mind. It’s not about praying weird incantations “against the enemy,” or marking crosses on the doorframe with oil, or the other wacky things Christians do when they forget Biblical truth. It’s about remembering our redemption, and who we are because of God’s forgiveness and renewal. It’s about grace.