Last May I was working when I made a mistake. While I understood that I was to blame, my first reaction was to fix blame in other places. As I look back on my reaction, I realize it was unrealistic for me to revert into defensive mode, rather than a repentant mode.
I know that I’m in need of change. Yet when my need to change is exposed, everything in me revolts and cries, “Unfair! You need to hear my side of the issue.”
Repentance is at the heart of our relationship with the Lord. If we are a part of the family of God, we understand that simple principle. Repentance means turning from an action and going in the opposite direction. It is our willingness to make alterations and God’s willingness to release His transformation power to actually make change a reality. These two principles work in concert to achieve what we cannot accomplish on our own–much needed change.
In prayer, I forced myself to face and desire change that would not allow this mistake to happen again. In humility, I turned to my Father God to do the work that I cannot do on my own. Will there be a difference? Yes. God is faithful in the middle of my drama, failure and inability.
As we know, it was God’s undeniable sense of justice that demanded that He allow Jesus to be sacrificed on the cross. However, it was God’s mercy that allowed this perfect human to be killed for the sin of all mankind. While we can do nothing to earn and thereby exact from God forgiveness, we are able to come humbly and ask for forgiveness that can only be given by a merciful Lord.
The Message says in I John 1 verses 5 through 7, “This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace in darkness in him.
“If we claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth–we’re not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s son, purges all our sin.”
While we cannot earn our deliverance. We can live our deliverance. Though in her early 20’s Polly lived a life that would make a sailor blush. Before she was in her teen’s, she knew more about worldly activities than many others who have lived long, hard years of debauchery. But she had a heart that yearned for God’s kiss of mercy. Her walk for complete of deliverance has been hard because there is no family support or living arrangements that would encourage Christ-like deportment.
A few years ago, she accepted Jesus as her Savior. Slow but surely she is walking toward the wholeness that God’s mercy promises. I’m learning from her by her misses, skips and successes. I’m grateful that she is a part of my life and I’m able to be a part of her growth.
Within the mentally challenged community, there are many young adults like Polly. It is a joy to be included in the sphere of their friends.
In the past weeks, I’ve been going over some of the key words in our covenant relationship with God with the members of my community who are intellectually disabled. Perhaps one of the most important words we use is grace.
Most of us have learned and maybe we even remember
This is great explanation of grace and the first one I could readily remember. However, it is a bit churchy sounding for many people.
Then there is the wonderful explanation: Unmerited favor. I love this simple explanation that encapsulates the amazing concept of grace in two words.
However, trying to explain grace seemed harder than I had imagined to our members. They didn’t grasp the whole acrostic idea. And while unmerited favor seems simple enough, even the members who remember the two-word definition could not comprehend what it meant.
Therefore, we worked our way into another definition that they understood and fully appreciated. Grace is receiving a gift we don’t deserve.
Receiving a gift we don’t deserve is not as catchy at the acrostic or as short as “unmerited favor” but our members understand it and have grasped its meaning. The process of discovering a definition that they can easily understand and remember has also heightened my understanding and appreciate of God’s amazing grace.
Today, I heard again the Christmas song about the little boy whose mother is dying on Christmas eve and he wants to buy her shoes to wear as she goes into heaven. He doesn’t have enough money to buy the shoes and a person in line gives him the money he needs. It’s never been my favorite Christmas song because of the obvious sentimentality. The song was never realistic to me. Yet, it deliberately strokes my heart strings with grief and sorrow.
However, I heard it in the context of a devotion by a pastor who shared the song. He spoke about his wife who died of cancer when his two daughters were teenagers. Unashamed, the Man of God cried as he read the words, remembering the first Christmas his daughters experienced without their mother.
Many people who are intellectually disabled come perplexed to the crossroads of holidays with mixed emotions. During this time, why should they have to struggle to walk in joy when it seems easier to become swallowed by grief? We must not forget that people who are mentally challenged may not have the cognitive ability or possess the navigational tools which help them to choose the joyful paths which allow them to experience peace as they remember loved ones lost through death or separation.
Distraction may be the best way to redirect their thoughts. However, I try always to pray out loud for our members who are grieving during this time. A hug and quick prayer for them works miracles. The prayer I often pray is, “Father, bless my good friend as she grieves for her loss. Help her to remember that her loved one is no longer in need of prayer. Let her find your peace for today and for the rest of this joyful time.” As I release them from the hug, I smile and encourage my member to also smile.
Does it always work? Nope. But at least he knows that God and I love him and that God cares enough to take time to hear his prayer. That is, of course, the work God has called us to to do. What is something that you use to help your members who are grieving during holidays?