I finally found me. The real me. Some might say God found me, but I would disagree. God has always known who and where I am. I have never been lost to Him. He made me and I’m pretty sure He has kept track of me all my life, no matter where I was. But He did show me the way to discover the authentic Laurel, the one who was lost because of her past. He helped me dig through the muck of despair that was clouding my vision of the real me. And that muck was keeping me from the life that He had created for me.
People who have only met me recently have no idea about the journey I have been on; how different I am compared to the younger me. See, I was sexually abused both as an infant and again as a preteen. The effects of that abuse on sweet little blond-haired Laurie were devastating. I was imprisoned by depression, anger, self-doubt, and negative self-talk. I felt unlovable, dirty, and shameful. I suffered from terrible anxiety which drove me to an obsessive-compulsive disorder in which I constantly counted my steps and repeated actions. I was prone to self-injury when I felt out of control. I ended up fearful of people and couldn’t go out, even to the grocery store.
In the midst of this suffering, I was so thrilled to accept Jesus as a teenager. I started learning about His love for me and that my sins were paid for by Jesus on the cross. I wish I could tell you that just giving myself to Jesus fixed everything. It isn’t true.
For years Phil, the kids, and I, would head off to church Sunday morning, Bibles in tow, to listen to the worship band and pastor’s sermon, enjoy catching up with our friends, and heading to Casa Blanca afterwards with them for some New Mexican bacon wrapped green chile poppers and an hour or so of laughter. The food and fellowship were great, but once I got home, the cold reality set in; nothing I had heard that day in church made a difference in how I felt about myself. Nothing. I was still the same person I was when I left the house that morning, only with a belly aching a little from the poppers.
The gospel I had heard didn’t free me like I thought it would. Though, I knew that I had eternal salvation, I was still a wreck. And for a long time, I thought that was just the way it was going to have to be. So, I accepted it. I accepted the gospel of “trying to clean myself up” which was the idea that I could become more righteous and holy merely by doing good works and avoiding sin.
While I now recognize it is erroneous (and destructive), this concept made sense to me at the time. I could make myself right and good by working at it. It was like compulsively counting steps. It sounded like a good plan to me. It was a way of taking matters into my own hands. And I did.
But it didn’t produce the change I sought. My marriage, children, and life were suffering, and I desperately needed answers. I needed to find myself, the real me, not the one I was pretending to be. So, I started praying specifically for that. How could I unbury myself from the muck of despair I had been trapped in for so long? I had to start walking toward God, and that was the beginning of my journey.
Eventually, I realized the one thing that cut right through that muck: His grace. But it’s not just the grace we learn about at church. You know the verse, the one about us being saved by grace, which is amazing, for sure. I got that, and that secured my eternity. That grace reveals the abundance of God’s love for us that He would die for our sins so we could spend eternity with Him. Some define it as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
I’m talking about another kind of grace that washes away the grime that gets caked on us from this world, from day-to-day monotony and working hard to be holy to the extreme of depression and suicidal thoughts. I’m talking about a revolutionary and extreme kind of grace. A type of grace that awakens us out of the deadness of this world and makes us alive and free. This sort of grace is one that very few people talk about. I’m talking about radical grace.
I can testify that when I truly got God’s radical grace, my life started to change. I remember the moment when it first hit me. I was lying on our burgundy leather couch (southwest style is all the rage in New Mexico!), reading through Galatians chapters 3, 4, and 5 repeatedly. For some reason, I just knew they held some secret that was going to help me to unlock the real, authentic me. I prayed for the Spirit to help me see what I couldn’t see. I was like the persistent widow in the Book of Luke. I kept reading it and asking God for insight, and I didn’t stop until I got an answer.
Suddenly a light bulb came on, and I finally got what Paul was telling me in those passages. GRACE! Not just grace the way we humans typically define it, but radical grace! I thought I had understood grace, but I realized at that moment that grace permeates much more of my life than I had been taught. God’s radical grace is not only for our salvation, but it governs our daily lives and inspires us to live now; really live. It is transformational when applied to our relationships, including with God, as well as the proper perspective of our sinful nature. I wish I could define it for you in one succinct sentence, but I can’t because it involves understanding a host of topics such as the Jewish Law, sin, the covenants, our dual natures in Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the commandments of Jesus. That is why I wrote this book. Getting the full version of radical grace won’t happen by reading a one-liner on a tee shirt or a coffee mug. It is going to take a little time, some storytelling, and a little digging into the Bible.
After that, I couldn’t unsee it. I knew that radical grace was missing from my life.
That day, God had started me down the path of healing and discovery. It took several more years to untie all the knots that a graceless life had tied me up in, but now that I am walking unbound and living a life of peace, joy, and love, I am excited to share what I have discovered with you.
That life is what I want for you, my friend. You have picked up this book simply because of curiosity or because you are searching for something more, different. Whatever the reason, you chose to spend your time with me within the pages of this book and I want this time together to be a blessing to you. I imagine we are sitting in my living room, enjoying a snack and a cup of coffee or tea, and conversing about grace. As we lean into Jesus and His amazing radical grace together, I will be vulnerable and share myself with you in hopes that you will open yourself up to God, be vulnerable to Him, as He pours Himself and His love into your soul. I pray through our time together that you truly understand and fully receive God’s healing, amazing, wonderful radical grace.