Thursday, April 16, 2015

Recognize that your readers might fear God’s grace is out of reach

Your readers need to know your stories about forgiveness because they might think they’re beyond God’s grace—at least one of them, maybe several of them.

I haven’t researched the topic but I suspect every memoir involves some aspect of forgiveness:

Our need to ask forgiveness from others
Our need to accept and embrace God’s forgiveness

If I’m right—if every memoir involves some aspect of forgiveness—do we treat forgiveness like the elephant in the room?

In one way or another, forgiveness surrounds our everyday lives, from birth to death, but do we shy away from taking a serious look at it?

It looms, maybe in the corner of the room, but are we uncomfortable discussing it?

As a memoirist, how are you addressing the topic of forgiveness?

Your readers—

your kids, grandkids, great-grandkids,

generations yet unborn—

will struggle with their own failures

and weaknesses

and temptations

and sins.

God can use your life’s stories
to help them turn to Him
for forgiveness and restoration.

Twice this month we’ve looked at a couple components of forgiveness. Today, let’s continue:

We need to accept and embrace God’s forgiveness, and we need to forgive ourselves:

After we’ve confessed and asked God’s forgiveness for our sins against Him and others, after we’ve radically, deliberately, sincerely turned our lives around, too often we continue to beat ourselves up over our failures. Too often we still consider ourselves soiled, ruined, disgraced. We feel doomed to live with shame the rest of our lives.

If that’s where you are today, I encourage you to ban the following judgment of yourself:

Instead, ask God to help you embrace the following:

Rest in the assurance that God’s forgiveness is complete, perfect, lacking nothing.

Believe God’s promise to forgive (1 John 1:9, Proverbs 28:13, Psalm 103:12).  

LIVE like you are forgiven (Psalm 32:5).

Relax in God’s love, mercy, and grace (Zephaniah 3:17).

Delight yourself in the joy of the Lord (2 Samuel 22:20, Psalm 16:16, Psalm 35:9, Isaiah 61:10, Nehemiah 8:10, Psalm 92:4).

Your stories are important—people need to know your stories of giving and receiving forgiveness—but spelling out every last detail might not be appropriate.

How much do you share with your readers—your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren?

“How open and honest do we need to be?
Do we have to tell our readers everything?

In Write His Answer: A Bible Study for Christian Writers, Marlene Bagnull points out that Paul, in the New Testament, must have had deep regrets over his persecution of Christians, yet he didn’t dodge it, he didn’t treat it like the elephant in the room.

Instead, spoke of his sinful life (Acts 22). He didn’t tell all the gory details of how he persecuted people, but he told the most important information: the Lord confronted him and called him to repent so he could tell others about God’s grace and forgiveness. Paul wrote, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy….The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly…” (1 Timothy 1:13-16; see also Romans 8:2).  

Paul didn’t record what, specifically, was the thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-8).

He wrote that he kept doing things he didn’t want to do, but didn’t name them (Romans 7:15).  

But Paul always pointed his listeners and readers to God’s grace.

And he did so even though he knew he still was not perfect. “I am still not all I should be,” he admitted (Philippians 3:13).

You see, it wasn’t because Paul was so great. No, it was because God was and still is so great!

Like Paul, you and I are far from perfect, and, like Paul, we don’t need to tell all our gory details. But with humility, if God so leads, we can share transparently some of our failures in tactful ways so that we, like Paul, can tell how God saved us and changed us—by His staggering grace and mercy.

Your stories and mine are important because those who read them might think they’re beyond God’s grace. Our stories might inspire them to accept God’s forgiveness for themselves.

“Out of his awareness of his own sinful nature,
Paul was able to point others to
‘the power of the life-giving Spirit’ (Romans 8:2).
We can do the same.”

Marlene Bagnull, Write His Answer

With God’s help, we must write stories that point readers to God's grace. We can write stories to bless entire families and generations—not because you and I are so great, but because God is so great!

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