This is an embarrassing admission, but I write about lots of embarrassing things these days, so here goes…
When I first became a Christian at the age of fifteen, I was a good girl. Like…a really good girl. Maybe, I had been kissed twice. I never missed curfew (largely because I hardly went anywhere). I grounded myself, when I didn’t make the honor roll (not sure what I grounded myself from, but you get the point).
Consequently, when I became a Christian, it felt a bit more like joining a club than me buckling under the weight of my sin or realizing I needed a Savior to forgive me and wash me clean. My sin seemed pretty minuscule, at the time.
The embarrassing part is that I think a sliver of me kept believing that I wasn’t all that sinful well into my adult years! Sure, I messed up and hurt people, but it was unintentional. I was glad Jesus died on the cross, but I think a part of me – and I can hardly believe I’m typing these words – felt I didn’t really need him to do that for me. (I know, I know…I’ve already worked this through with God. No need to email me.)
But then this good Christian girl found herself being served some papers and walking into the scandalous land of divorce.
For the first time in my life, I felt completely sinful. Completely broken. Completely wrong. Completely unfixable. Completely – dare I say – unforgiven. For the first time in my life, I had nothing to give and felt I had crossed every line. This was when I began to understand grace.
I am now much more realistic of my true state and much more kind and gentle with myself. This has beautifully changed how I see others. In the misguided self-image of I’m-okay-on-my-own-merit, I held a judge’s gavel in my hands, sizing people up left and right, but especially the divorced ones.
But now… I understand the pain and the shame and the need for grace. Grace is what I learned and grace is what I offer.
Elisabeth Klein is the author of Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage, speaker and a member of Redbud Writers’ Guild. She led a women’s ministry in her church for ten years. She currently leads small groups, writes, and speaks to women surrounding faith, difficult marriage, domestic abuse, divorce and single parenting issues. She lives with her two teenage children in Illinois. Visit her online at http://www.elisabethklein.com.