One glorious day the God of all Creation intervened in my life and saved me by His grace!
I was raised a Roman Catholic. I went to Catholic school all my life from kindergarten to twelfth grade. I was baptized when just a few weeks old, made my first communion when I was 7 and was confirmed in the faith when I was 12. After I started school, I went to mass every morning except Saturday. And on Saturdays, from about age 10 when I was old enough to go on my own, I went to confession, did my penance and knelt and visited with God privately for a few minutes before going home. I received communion at almost every mass (although, I must confess I was enticed by what I thought were the greatest breakfasts in the world—hot chocolate and toast dripping with margarine or milk and Picou’s crunchy glazed donuts, two to a bag, which the school served every school day after mass for those who received communion). This, of course, was because we had to fast after midnight before receiving the body and blood of Christ. I attended mass on all holy days, observed special days of devotion, and Lenten fasts and Friday abstinences.
As you can see, I was a practicing Catholic—a “good Catholic”. In addition, I tried my best not to sin and to care for others around me in various needs, especially family. As time went on these “good works” became increasingly more difficult to perform. My family problems increased after the death of my father when I was 16, just before my senior year in high school, and continued to get worse. They became so overwhelming to me that after college I moved from my home to a different city to escape the constant pressure, guilt and failure that I felt. I tried so hard to do those things which I knew God required of me and not to do those things which were displeasing to Him, but all the while I knew I could not meet His high expectations. For God is perfect and I soon realized I was not and never would be. At best I would burn in purgatory for a set period of time until my sins of commission and omission were atoned for and at worst I would burn in hell for all eternity.
My solution was the same as many people’s—ignore the guilt and failure and make a god and a theology of my own, one that was more compassionate than the one in which I was raised. One in which everyone went to heaven when they died except the exceedingly sinful, criminal and perverse. In my theology it didn’t matter what religion you were—Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, whatever…as long as you were a good one, that is a good Hindu or a good Muslim. In other words, a good God provided many ways to Him and if you tried real hard to be a good whatever you were, that was pleasing to God and at the end of your life you would be accepted by Him. So I just tried to be the best Christian I could and God would be proud of me and my mind and heart would be at peace. And He would have as much compassion and pity on all my weaknesses and sinfulness as I had for myself. (See my post “Job and I”)
One day the God of all creation sent His messenger to me. A new friend and neighbor of mine invited me to a Bible study in the book of Romans at her little small town Bible church. (By this time I was married with 2 children ages 4 and 5.) With everything in me I did not want to say yes. I did not, did not want to go to a Bible study with ladies I was sure were religious fanatics. But my friend was lovely, gracious, and hospitable and I could not bring myself to tell her no. So I grudgingly went with her.
I found myself arguing in my mind with every word the teacher said. He talked about self-righteousness verses the gift-righteousness of Christ, how all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, that God says that there is none righteous, not one. He talked about the fact that the earned and just punishment of our sins is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ; he talked about salvation by grace verses salvation by works and that there is but one way to God and that is through His only Son, the God/Man, Christ Jesus. And, in my mind, I argued with every point and knew that my theology was right.
Then one glorious day the God of all creation intervened in my life and saved me by His grace! My children were in school. I was listening to music and cleaning my house when a bible verse that the bible teacher repeated over and over again just popped into my mind. “It is by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one should boast in His presence.” And in that instant, I immediately knew that the Bible teacher—the Bible, in fact—was right and I was wrong, so wrong, for so many years. In that instant, I dropped to my knees at my coffee table, dusting rag in hand, and wept and wept and wept over the goodness of God. For the first time in my life I knew experientially that God was truly good. To have such an intimate encounter with God was more than I could bear. I wept off and on for a year as God in the goodness of His grace and mercy forgave all my sins, great and small, past, present and future, cleansed me, loved me and brought healing to my soul through prayer, His Word, and the kindness of His body, the church.
“It is by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one should boast in His presence.” Ephesians 2:8
“For if (salvation) is by grace, then it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is not longer grace.” Romans 11:6
“I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes from keeping the law (works), then Christ is dead in vain.” Galatians 2:21
Music Link: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us by Selah https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKDujmtyAVk