GRC has recently launched a ministry called Embrace Grace, a support group for single women who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. Since October, our church has partnered with Lighthouse Pregnancy Resource Center in leading weekly meetings with this moms-to-be. Our desire has been to provide a safe, nonjudgmental place for the women to hear about God’s grace through Jesus, while GRC members listen to the moms’ stories, provide generous snacks at the meetings, and pray for them and their babies.
As the Embrace Grace committee laid the groundwork for this program, I have thought a lot about what it means to “embrace grace”. I started by examining the opposite: what does it mean to “embrace works”? It means to bask in the consequences of things we have done, whether good things or bad things. If I have done something really good (y’know, help an old lady across the street, give money to the poor, etc), I enjoy those warm feelings that come from doing a good thing. I rehearse my actions in my mind, pat myself on the back, and embrace the warmth of being a really good person. However, we know what happens as we continue along this line of thinking…”Pride goeth before a fall,” right? So very soon I “blow it” and do something bad: I am mean to my husband, I ignore a friend when she is sick, or I lie to a coworker. Now I am shrouded in feelings of guilt and shame, or I frantically defend my behavior to myself. Either way, as I embrace my works, the good ones and the bad, the result is this: I am in a state of fragile pride and short-lived self-satisfaction, or in a state of shame, self-contempt, or exhaustion from rationalizing my behavior. That’s what it means to “embrace works”. Sounds like an emotional roller coaster, right?
So what does it mean to “embrace grace”? For the person who acknowledges his/her sin and receives God’s forgiveness through the death of His Son, Jesus, to embrace God’s grace means for that person to ascribe all glory to God during those times when he sees his sanctification growing, and to return to the cross to be reminded of God’s unconditional forgiveness during those times when he really “blows it.” Living life while embracing God’s grace promises the Christian a life of peace (being at peace with his Creator), the security in knowing himself as he really is, knowing God as He really is, and a joy that transcends his behavior and circumstances.
Our meetings with the Embrace Grace moms culminated in a baby shower for them. The celebration was a sight to see: fabulous food, a beautifully decorated room, a delightful photo booth for festive memory-making, a photographer taking pictures of their families, a huge mound of baby gifts for each mom, lots of our church members lovingly interacting with the moms and their families, and hearing a concise presentation of the Gospel. The moms-to-be were filled with gratitude to our church for showing them the extravagance of God’s love, which is expressed in their note at the bottom.
Ultimately, the prayer of the Embrace Grace ministry is that the moms would come to see that God’s grace through Jesus allows them to receive HIs forgiveness for all sins – past, present, and future, and it gives them the freedom to immerse themselves – and their babies – into lives experiencing His unconditional love.
As GRC continues to provide ministries that communicate the grace of God, may we be reminded of this incredible gospel truth for ourselves as well.
Betsy Tyvoll leads the Embrace Grace Ministry at GRC.