11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
15 Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one look down on you.
So filled with the grace of God, we are made holy, pure, and saintly???
Well yes, living in the light of God’s grace we are made all of these things, but we are not made perfect!
And it is interesting to note that we did not need to become perfect, pious and self-controlled in order to earn this grace, but are encouraged to become better people because we have been given this grace as a free gift…as it is this grace that helps us to improve ourselves!
However, even though we know that we do not have to be ‘good enough’ to earn this gift, it can still be discouraging to read this passage, for being self-controlled, upright and godly as well as zealous for good deeds can be a daunting goal to pursue.
I remember right after my ex-wife and I broke up…I was in rough shape and when not taking care of my daughter or going to my seminary classes, I just wanted to stay in bed (and often while doing these things, I still just wanted to be in bed)! However, after a while I was encouraged to get out and start exercising, to clear my head, so I ‘liberated’ my old bicycle from my ex’s apartment (where I also used to live) and I began to go for bike rides.
At first I could only go a few blocks, and I became frustrated as I did not realize what bad shape I was in; I wanted to do better right away, and I was impatient and I wanted to give up, until I found a friend to ride with, who gave me pointers to improve my performance, and so with her help I stuck with it, and as time went by, I did get stronger and began to go farther and farther on my daily rides, until I was doing about 25 miles a day by the end of that summer (on a new bicycle)! The next summer I even rode in the American Cancer Society bike-a-thon, the first of ten I would participate in over the next ten years!
Whether we are riding a bicycle, jogging, building a home, raising a child, or following Christ we all start off at the beginning, and improve with training…often that training is provided by others like my friend who taught me how to be a better bike rider, or my siblings and friends who helped me to be a better parent, and the people I share my faith with who have helped me to become a better follower of Christ!
Being a single parent is hard enough all by itself without the added pressure of training to become a better person…more holy, more upright, etc… Sometimes it is enough for us to just keep moving forward one day at a time, trying to keep up with what our kids need, and not to screw up too badly!
However, just by doing this we are following Christ the best way we can, by sharing our experience, strength and hope with our children, other parents as we support each other on our journey through life. As we share our faith with each other we are training each other to be better parents, better people and better Christians; and in the process we are also training our children to be better people, or at least giving them a good foundation upon which to build their lives (or rebuild them after losing their way, as we often do when we are young).
Of course, nothing is guaranteed, and despite our best efforts we may, and most likely WILL fall short of God’s glory…failing to be truly pious, godly and self-controlled at all times…and we may let our passions, frustrations and fear get the best of us…in short we can lose our temper with our children and others, and also turn our anger inward, as we can be very hard on ourselves for failing to live up to the expectations of others, and ourselves!
Yet, as always, there is good news: we never fall short of God’s expectations as God does not expect us to be perfect, otherwise we would not have needed the gift of grace as given through Christ, and shared with each other! Just as we love our children, and will give them many breaks in life, so too does God love us, regardless of our failings…as we are all children of God! Remember, we are only called to train to be better people, and to be more godly, and training takes time, and along the way many mistakes are made…but we do learn and do grow, and anyone who trains, be it an athlete, professional, artist, writer, etc., will tell you that training never really ends, as we can always get better, and will improve as we gain more skills and wisdom!
In short, if we live our faith out-loud in all that we do, and do our best, turning the results over to the care of God, we will be the manifestation of God’s glory in the world, and the light of your grace, as shared with others, will shine brightly in our lives and the lives of our children!
Let us Pray:
God, thank you for loving us despite our imperfections, and for giving us the support of each other as we train to be better followers of Christ, and to share your love with our children and our world. Help us not to be too hard on ourselves when we fall short of our expectations and make mistakes as we raise our children. Let us keep an open-mind which will allow us to grow with our children and each other as we gain wisdom from our mistakes, and hope from those we love, so that the light of your grace will shine brightly throughout the world…and give us reasons for joy and praise!