‘Some Exclusions Apply’ is a common enough disclaimer that whenever I get a really good coupon for something, I immediately go to the extremely small print at the bottom to see all the things to which the coupon cannot be applied. Sometimes the list is so long that I wonder why the store even bothers printing the thing. Our legalistic society has so conditioned us to consider whether something has limitations, minimums, disclaimers, qualifiers, exclusions, and meeting the necessary criteria that it is difficult to take anything at face-value.
Last night as I was starting to re-read a book I was reminded of some uncomfortable feelings I had experienced the first time I read the book, which surprised me because I ended up really liking the book. The author was describing a period of intense pain and struggles brought on by the betrayal of some of her friends. Over the course of several chapters she relayed how their betrayal affected her, but also how God walked with her through those rough days. He revealed His immense love for her and that these circumstances were going to be used for her good. He had purpose in her pain. The author went on to lovingly draw the readers in who may be feeling similar pain, but for the first couple chapters it seemed (although I doubt it was her intent) she was only speaking to those hurt through actions of others or through circumstances God allowed in their lives for which they had no control. All that goodness of God and the life-giving words that she was describing were things anyone who is going through difficult circumstances would want to cling to in order to persevere. As the pages flipped past my nose, however I was becoming increasingly unsettled; I felt as if I didn’t belong there. I felt like I was standing outside looking in through a window watching others feasting on something satisfying. Of course I wanted to sit at that table; to be covered by the biblical promises that were being shared, but because my pain and my struggles were due to my own failure, my own sin, I didn’t feel included. I was left to press my nose against the window while I watched others basking in the covering of God’s peace and love.
I felt these very same feelings of exclusion several years ago as well. After a horrible failure on my part, I went through this period of being thirsty for absolute Truth. I turned off the TV and secular radio, stopped watching movies, even stopped reading Christian books for a short period as I only wanted to be filled with absolute truth which only comes from the Bible. But even while reading the Bible, I wanted to make sure I was interpreting the meaning correctly; wanting to know the authors’ true intention, and wanted to make sure before I clung to a promise that it was one that pertained to me and my circumstances. I’m sure I called and emailed my mom dozens of times about the intent of different pieces of scripture. She was patient with me and kind in her responses as she relayed what she understood certain verses to mean. I just kept thinking maybe there were some conditions or criteria that would exclude me from applying certain promises. There was a point however where God did gently ask me “why don’t you ask Me if it applies to you?”, and my mental response was “because my mom will pick up the phone and answer me immediately with an audible voice!” Well, I did start to ask God to reveal His intentions for His wonderful promises and whether they applied to me and He answered.
Let me tell you now, in case you may be agonizing over whether a wonderful promise is actually too good to be for you, because you feel you have messed up too much to receive any or all the goodness of the Lord… His grace has amazyingly and fully covered absolutely all that you have done or have had done to you. You can and need to grab onto any promise God offers in His word. You, yes you (and you…and you back there) have full access to all that He has to offer…you just need to take it. There is nothing in His word, no truth, no promise, no encouragement, no peace, no covering, or shelter or wing or tower or still water or future or hope, that you are excluded from. No matter the type of sin, the frequency of sin, the devastation caused by your sin…His grace, His beautiful grace, is sufficient for you, it is sufficient even for me! His forgiveness is whole and His love is full.
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:38
There was not a particular moment in time when God calmed my fears about the application of scripture, because it happened gradually over a course of about 18 months as I continued reading His words, spending time with Him in prayer and asking Him to reveal His truth to me. It was when I understood God better that I started understanding scripture better. He showed me that I was indeed included…and not just skirting- over- the- threshold- and- standing- in- the- back- of -the- room-included, but it was His pleasure and delight to include me at the grand banquet table with my own upholstered chair (no last minute folding chair), a hand printed place card with my name (because He was expecting me), linen napkin, a full spread of silverware and crystal, and wouldn’t you know it…He was serving MY favorite dessert. I was fully included in all the goodness that He has to offer. It was upon this realization that began my profound understanding of grace and in turn began my real recovery.