Today would have been my Grandma’s 83rd birthday and it is our first one without her. The past year-and-a-half, since her diagnosis, has been so difficult and especially so since we lost her last May.
My Grandma Nell was one of the strongest women I have ever known. She faced many trials in her life, including the loss of her husband to suicide and her own battle with alcoholism, and overcame them all with a quiet strength and grace that many spend their entire lives trying to find. Forgiveness seemingly came very easy to her, although I anticipate that she had her own inner struggle as we all do. She once told me that no one should live their life looking backward and that is truly how she lived. She came to know Jesus as her Lord and Savior when I was in middle school and her later years were probably the best of her life!
She would spend hours just listening to her children and grandchildren talk. I used to love sitting at her kitchen table with her and talking over coffee. There was a certain peace there, perhaps because she read her Bible and prayed right there every day. The memories of making biscuits together and watching Bronco games with her in her TV room and making peanut brittle and Cinnamon Rolls at Christmas time and pies the night before Thanksgiving will always be sweet reminders of the time that we were blessed to spend with her in this life.
But the greatest legacy that she left was the legacy that no matter what happens in our lives, no matter how far from God we may wonder, He is always able to bring us back, to restore our lives and redeem our calling. After all, salvation is not about us. It is not about what we do, or how good we are. It is only about what He did for us over two millennia ago. In fact, I don’t believe that we can truly have intimacy with God until we realize how capable we are of every evil know to man and how much He loves us anyway.
There is a story in the Bible of a woman that was “a sinner”. It does not specify the sin, although many scholars believe her to be the same woman that was caught in adultery (the prostitute) and thrown at the feet of Jesus while the religious leaders made Him decide whether or not she should be stoned. (Look it up if you haven’t heard of it – it’s a great story!)
But whether it was this woman or another, she brought a very expensive perfume, worth a year’s wages, and used it to anoint the feet of her Savior, and wept at His feet, washing them with her tears and her hair. A religious leader there was disgusted that Jesus would allow “that kind of woman” to touch him like that. But in His customary style, Jesus responded with a story and explained love and forgiveness to this religious leader by saying, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
I think many of us who have heard and read this story miss a hidden lesson. For in reality, all of mankind was separated from God because of the sin that entered our bloodline when Adam and Eve ate of that tree. I do not believe that Jesus was saying in this story that the only those who have lived the most sinful lifestyles can really love Him. I am convinced that Jesus was teaching us that only when we realize the magnitude of His forgiveness and what we are capable of and destined to without Him can we truly love Him. Only when we realize that God’s love and favor are not earned and that we can never be good enough to please Him can we truly understand what He did for us. And only when we stop comparing ourselves to others and gaining our self-worth from being “better” than someone else, can we experience the fullness of His great love for us and express that love to others.
As my Grandma knew well, and as God is teaching me more and more every day, we are all forgiven so much! And although not one of us is forgiven little, that perspective, because of a good life with only minor blemishes, is perhaps the greatest stumbling block in the church. When we begin to realize that even our own righteousness, as the Bible states, is as filthy rags to God, our love for Him will become as great as the love of that woman who sacrificed the most valuable thing she owned in order to show her love for Jesus. And it is then that He will help us to overcome every difficult thing in our life, everything that causes us to stumble and everything that keeps us from the destiny that He has for us.
I am still mourning the loss of my grandmother and yesterday I shared in a friend’s mourning of her own grandmother. It is a difficult part of life, and all will at some point experience the loss of someone close to them. And, eventually, our loved ones will have to mourn our passing from this life. And so, for the anticipation of that moment, many wonder what will happen when that time comes for them. For me, I am assured of eternity in Heaven because of my acceptance of the free gift of Salvation that God offers us through His Son, Jesus. I stumble daily and He helps me back up every time. He gives me peace through all the storms of life and I have gotten through things that I never thought I could recover from. The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but that all who call on the Name of Jesus will be saved. It really isn’t that difficult. Has it been awhile since you opened up a Bible? It’s never too late to come to Him as long as you still have a breath left. I urge you, today, to come to Jesus. He stands at the door of every heart and knocks. All we have to do is open the door and let Him in and our lives, just like the life of my sweet, southern grandma, will never be the same.