A Wish Come Clear

Choosing Love, Losing Fear, & Finding Home

Spend It Offering Light: Week 4 & Giveaway

What happens when you expect judgment and shame, and receive grace instead?

That’s the question addressed by our two brave guests today. This is the last — for now! — post in our “Spend It Offering Light” series. (#OfferLight) First time reading? Learn the story behind our series here. “Spend It Offering Light” features real people turning their fears into something that helps others, into light.

Today, please welcome Carly Gelsinger of CarlyGelsinger.com (“A story about messes worth making”) and Stephanie Gates of A Wide Mercy (“Because we all need the grace and room to grow”).

Carly Gelsinger

Sometimes I get kind of self-righteous about my beliefs. If only other Christians could be as tolerant as me, I think, then we wouldn’t be in this mess. Why can’t “they” just get it?

Then I am reminded of where self-righteousness got me a decade ago.

The neon orange sign said “HOMOSEXUALS GO TO HELL: REVELATION 21:8.” A young man held it, alone, on the corner of a busy intersection near my community college. “HOMOSEXUALITY IS AN ABOMINATION TO GOD” read another sign taped to his parked truck.

I was 18. I thought I was taking a stand for God.

He had collected a small crowd of critics, who were trying to shoo him away with boos and hisses. The man, who looked about my age, quietly stood his ground.

I felt sorry for him, and although I didn’t love his delivery, I genuinely believed he was standing for the truth.

This is what I did next. I ran into 7-11, bought a cold Coke, and delivered it to him.

“You’re doing a good thing,” I told him.

“You’re doing a good thing,” the opposing group of students sneered at me in falsetto voices.

Their scorn made me feel like a real warrior for Christ.

Feeling very godly, I thought Jesus would probably buy a soda for his persecutors too. So I went back in 7-11, bought a few more sodas, and passed them out to the crowd. The Persecutors softened and thanked me for the gesture. I probably said “Jesus bless you,” or something like that.

I drove away feeling proud of myself for this Divine Appointment. I stood for what was right, yet showed compassion – the perfect balance of loving the sinner and hating the sin. Thank you Jesus for emboldening me, I prayed in the car.

Ten years later, the encounter haunts me.

As I slowly, cautiously, rediscover the gospel, I entertain a question I would have denounced as heresy a decade ago. I ask it, I let it sit there. I marinate in it. My body relaxes into it, my spirit drinks it in: Does God really love everybody?

Maybe some of you can relate.

The only reason I ever could have changed is because someone once showed grace to me.

Can I show grace to others at a different place in their journey?

Where is the line between standing firm against hate and greed and cruelty and injustice, while still having compassion for people – even the people perpetuating things we can’t stand?

I haven’t found it yet, so let me know if you have. Meanwhile, I’ll err on the side of grace, because self-righteousness never got me anywhere good.

***

Carly Gelsinger is a former journalist, a mother to a crayon-eating toddler, a wife, and a sucker for eucalyptus groves on the California Central Coast. She is a recovering fundamentalist Pentecostal finding grace in The Episcopal Church.

 

Stephanie Gates

Parched. That’s how I felt. My heart was shriveled, my heart was dry. I had nothing left to give. I was depleted in every way.

I can list the reasons why, but I’m not sure they matter. Any number of things can leave us dry and alone. In my life, my marriage was in trouble. I was isolated from friends, disconnected from family, and all of the ways I’d related to God in the past no longer applied. Church was splintering my family apart, and I could not envision my future. I felt as though God had led me off a cliff. Off a cliff, and into a wasteland.

In the middle of that hard season, my husband sent me a link to an article. I do not remember the title or author’s name. What I remember was that church was splintering her family, too. I stood in my kitchen and read her story over and again. With each word, I could breathe a little easier. That article did not singularly change my life, but it helped me feel less alone. During that desolate time, words became bread crumbs, leading me to a new approach to faith and to marriage.

Now, I write.

Anywhere I can, every time I can, I write. Freely I have received, freely I will give. God dropped grace into my life, word by word, at a time when nothing else could reach me. Now that I am free from that life, I share the grace I received from others.

***

Stephanie Gates is the mom to four beautifully rambunctious little kids and wife to a guy who still makes her smile. If you’ve ever abandoned religion in search of faith, ever left your hometown to find your home, or ever climbed to the tiptop of a jungle gym to rescue an overzealous toddler, you know something about Stephanie’s life. You can find more of her story at A Wide Mercy, or follow along on Facebook.

***

What’s your experience of grace? Join the conversation in the comments below!

One commenter will be chosen at random to receive a free copy of Sheridan Voysey’s recent spiritual memoir, Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams Into New Beginnings.

Resurrection Year is “a hope-filled story about starting again after a dream has died—an emotive, poetic, and at times humorous discovery of the healing qualities of beauty, play, friendship, and love.” In short, it’s about grace.

Random selection of our winner will happen Wednesday, May 21 at 12p CST. Good luck to all!

Update: Congratulations to Laurie, our randomly-chosen winner! Laurie will receive a free copy of Resurrection Year by Sheridan Voysey.

About Caroline McGraw

I'm a would-be childhood paleontologist and recovering perfectionist turned full-time writer, digging for treasure in people and uncovering sacred stories in ordinary days. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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10 Replies

  1. Jeanne

    Grace. I have been thinking about that a lot this year. Mostly because I am so bad at giving it yet I know I must. I must because God has given me more than I can measure. I am no more special than any of his other children. Part of my thanks and praise needs to be treating others as I like to be treated by God (and others!). So I am working on it. Imperfectly, as we all are imperfect. So I must also give my perfectionist self some grace.

    This post spoke to me when I first read it, but I did not want to respond just to “get” something. As I read it a second time, it still speaks to me. Or maybe this is God using you. Doh!

    1. Thank you, Jeanne! I’ve been pondering my own perfectionism and need for grace lately, so it’s reassuring to know that I’m not alone. I’m always fascinated at these connections… sharing the journey with people I’ve never met. Thanks again for leaving a comment- I appreciate the chance to connect. :)

  2. Megan

    Caroline, I have so enjoyed this series! Carly & Stephanie shared entries that invited me to pause and ponder my own story on this early morning. Also, I just caught up on all of your guest posts & columns elsewhere, Caroline, and I am overjoyed with how much you have given of yourself…how your narratives inspire and bring peace. Thank you!!

    1. That is so kind – thank you, Megan! I’m touched. Hearing that the stories inspire peace makes it worthwhile. Thank you, amiga-friend. xo

  3. Kristy McKinney

    I too am a “recovering Pharisee” as Rose Marie Miller writes in her book From Fear To Freedom. This book was one of the many ways The Lord brought me back to His grace to help me see my sin was no different than anyone else’s. I began to realize I was living like an orphan rather than as a Child of the the King. My job was not to figure it all out, He has already done that, my job is the love, serve, and stand in the security of the gospel.
    Great post thanks

    1. You’re most welcome, dear Kristy – and I really like your point about not needing to figure it all out, but simply to love. A similar Maya Angelou quote I’ve been pondering lately: “I don’t need another person, place, or thing to make me whole. God already did that. My job is to know it.” xo

  4. I love all of these thoughts on grace! Grace has set me free-free from striving to be good enough, or smart enough, or religious enough, or any of the other futile things I often pursue. Grace is what I strive to fill our home with, and I’m pretty convinced that we all need heaps and heaps of grace, each and every day. Thank you for such wonderful reminders today.

    1. Haynes, thank you – and here’s to grace for all of us, because we all need it! ;)

  5. Laurie

    Grace is the quiet space given to you when you need solace. It is the listening ear when you need to talk. It’s the belly laugh of a child who captures your heart. It is often not spoken, but freely given. I think we have to pay careful attention or we may miss it’s gentleness.

    1. What a lovely, poetic way of putting it, Laurie – well said!