People talk about giving grace or about those people in our lives that require extra grace, but have you ever stopped to really consider, what exactly is grace? Is it a feeling? Is it something that we do when we grit our teeth, smile and try to act courteously towards someone who doesn’t deserve that courtesy? Is it forgiving family and friends when they inflict wounds whether purposely or accidentally?
Merriam Webster defines grace as courteous goodwill, unmerited favor, an extended period of time allowed to pay a debt or complete forgiveness of a debt often granted as a special favor. It is derived from the Latin – gratia meaning pleasing, thankful or grateful. Grace and I believe forgiveness, originates with being grateful. It’s because we are grateful for what God has done for us and because of our love for others that God puts in our hearts, we are able to forgive. We are able to forgive when we have the heart of a father or the heart of our heavenly Father within us. I think grace continues to love and look for the best in others even when they don’t deserve it.
We all have people in our lives that have hurt us or been unkind to us at one time or another. It may have been a relative when we were growing up, a friend in high school or beyond, perhaps the guy that cut in front of us on the highway yesterday. For kids it might be the friend who won’t play with them on the playground, the kid who shoves in line in front of them or scribbles on their picture at school. Face it, part of living in this world involves hurt and pain. Some of the pain we experience is momentary and soon forgotten. We may go home, tell our family about the guy that cut in front of us on the highway and how we almost got into an accident, but after that, life goes on and we forget until someone else does the same thing.
There are other hurts however, that are harder to get over and harder to forgive, wounds that go deep into our souls. Perhaps you have been wounded by a divorce or an unfair accusation on the job that caused you loss. Perhaps you grew up in a home where abuse or addiction robbed you of your dreams and made you feel dirty or worthless. Forgiveness doesn’t come easy. You’ve learned to cope, but you still carry the wounds around with you. How can you forgive in these situations and how can you extend grace? Only by availing yourself of God’s grace. (Please note, extending grace and forgiveness is not putting yourself back into a dangerous situation. If you are in a dangerous situation, find a safe place you can go to and run to that safe place. Do not stay in an abusive relationship. You can though, with God’s grace forgive and move on which allows your deep wounds to begin to heal.)
How can we avail ourselves of God’s grace? First by remembering that He sent Jesus to pay the ultimate price for us. Jesus took all our sins and failings upon Himself so that we might live in relationship with a loving Father, His Father God. God extended His grace to us though we did nothing to deserve it. Because of the grace that God gives, we are forgiven and free to extend grace to others. So what do we do when forgiveness is hard to give? We remember that we’re forgiven and ask God to give us grace to forgive others. We also give grace to ourselves. Taking some time to do something nice for yourself or getting away from a stressful situation for awhile, may help you regroup and face the situation with more grace.
Grace is often inspired by remembering the things we have to be grateful for. Above all we can be thankful for all that God has given us. He has granted us grace over and over again. He loves us, forgives us, provides for us, is our friend and helper. He is everything we need.
So the next time you are having a hard time forgiving yourself or someone else, remember what God has done for you and then ask Him for grace to give to others what He has so freely given to you. When you begin to give thanks for all you have and all God has done, your focus will change. You may still have deep wounds, because deep wound sometimes take a while to heal, but those wounds aren’t quite so hard to bear with Jesus by your side.
I am thankful for what God has done in my life. My hope is renewed, my debt is forgiven and I am free to love others because God deeply loves me.
PARENT OR GRANDPARENT PRAYER:
Thank you for what you have done and what you are doing for me. You have forgiven me and you extend grace to me everyday. You have helped me grow to become all that you created me to be. Yes, God, I do have hurts and struggles that I am still working through. Sometimes I wonder, Why is it that I am having such a hard time with this problem? Why can’t I seem to move beyond this thing? Yet I know that you are working in my life giving me grace everyday. I know that you will heal those hurts as I continue to look to you. Lord, as you have forgiven and extended your grace to me over and over again, help me to also extend grace and forgiveness to others. It’s because of your great love that I can love. It’s because of your great love that I am free to extend grace. Remind me to give thanks especially when I am hurting or things look bleak because I know you are with me. Show me how I can exhibit your grace to my kids too. I pray that my kids understand both how to give grace and how to receive the grace you give. Amen
* Are you a perfectionist? Give yourself grace. Your kids will learn to give grace when they see you give it to yourself and others.
* Encourage courtesy and kindness. It may start with please and thank you, but goes beyond that – allowing someone to go in front of you, helping someone who is hurt, listening can all be ways of extending grace.
* Why is it that extending courtesy is often the hardest in our own homes? We often forget at home to thank our kids or our spouse when they do something for us. Let’s practice being grateful for those in our family too.
* Do something kind for someone else.
* Give your kids a hug and let them know they are loved when they mess up.
GRACE IN THE CLASSROOM
* Balance grace and consequences – both are needed
* Grace seeks the best for others – sometimes that might be reminding kids of the consequences of their actions, yet grace also reminds with kindness and recognizes effort. Grace gives strength to learn from mistakes.
* Seek to serve and encourage your kids to serve. Serving doesn’t mean doing everything for the kids. Kids should do as much as they can for themselves. Rather serving means laying aside our own agendas to help others be the best they can be.
* Have clear expectations. How can grace be exhibited through rules? Expectations give us boundaries to live within thus allowing your class to function with sense of safety and security instead of chaos. Grace then can be freely shown within those safe perimeters.
* Be warm, welcoming, compassionate, gentle and understanding. Basically that means getting down on your kids level and trying to see through their eyes.
* Accept every attempt to do better, accept apologies and give second chances.
* Remember we all make mistakes and we all need grace.
SHARE A STORY: A Lost Son – Luke 15:11-19
Once a son decided to ask his dad for money so he could move away from home and just have fun. The dad didn’t want his son to go, but he loved him and gave him what he asked for. (Pretend to give money.0
The son packed his bags, (Pretend to pack.) and moved far away. He spent all his money going to parties and having a good time with his friends. He was having fun! But one day the son looked (Pretend to look.) and all his money was gone.) He was hungry, (Rub tummy.) but he didn’t have money, so he got a job feeding stinky, dirty pigs. (Say, “Oink! Oink!) He was sooo hungry, (Rub tummy.) that he even wanted to eat what the pigs were eating. Yuk!!
One day when he was feeding the pigs, (Oink, oink!) he thought, “I know what I can do. I will go home and work for my dad. Then I will have enough food to eat.” (Rub tummy.)
And that is just what he did. He started walking towards home. (Stand up and walk in place.) Guess what! When He was almost home, his dad saw him coming and ran to meet him. Dad was so happy his son was home! He threw a big party to celebrate.
God loves us just like that dad loved his son. The son didn’t make good choices. He didn’t listen to his dad or live the way he should have. But his dad loved him anyway. God loves us too. He never stops loving us. He will forgive us when we don’t listen very well or do something wrong. God is kind and loving. He is always ready to forgive. All we have to do is ask Him to forgive us and help us to make good choices. He will help us listen to mom and dad and teachers too. We can be kind, forgiving and loving to others because we know that God is kind and loves us.
MEMORIZE: Eph. 4:32 ERV – (Hold hands like holding a book.)
Be kind – (Gently pull one hand across the top of the other hand.)
And loving – (Hug self.)
To each other – (Point with whole hand outwards.)
Forgive each other – (Point outwards.)
As God forgave you – (Point upwards.)
Dear God, Thank you for loving and forgiving me. I know you love me just like the dad loved his son. Help me make good choices and when I do make a bad choice, remind me to say I’m sorry and ask you to forgive me too. Amen
KNOW: God loves me like a father loves his son.
TALK ABOUT: Good choices.
ASK: Who loves you?God loves me.
AND DO: I can ask God to forgive me and help me live for Him.
FUN IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK
* Practice forgiveness. Model this for your kids by asking for their forgiveness when you are short with them or misunderstand them, etc., Also, you and your child can pray for those people who have hurt your feelings or done anything that you need to forgive. Remember God is always ready to forgive us.
* Role play some good choice/bad choice scenarios. EX: Taking the last piece of cake for yourself instead of sharing with your brother. Helping pick up your toys without being asked.
* Give your child an Ace™ bandage or a cheap box of band-aids® and let them play doctor with their dolls or “stuffies.. Praise them for showing compassion and kindness.“You are taking such good care of your doll just like the man in the Bible story we read.”