Michelle Stiffler attended a ProGrace workshop in Phoenix, Arizona in February 2017. She lives in the sunny Phoenix area where she enjoys the outdoors with her husband and 4 children. She is a mentor and a teacher at a local women’s center. She’s intrigued by personalities and the background stories that shape them. She’s passionate about prayer, insistent on family dinners, and she writes until she has nothing left. You can follow her blog at www.onemoretruth.com.
I accepted Christ when I was 4 years old. My understanding and acceptance was genuine and my memory of that moment – me sprawled across the living room floor in childlike fashion, and my mom composed on the couch like a grown up would be – has remained vivid over the decades.
God is God, and I am not.
There’s been a lot of living between that moment and today. But as much as I’ve matured in my faith, and for all I’ve come to understand about my Savior and His unchanging love, the more I see why Jesus commended the humility of a child. Because at the root of every one of my struggles, throughout my various stages of maturity, whether I am sprawled or composed, I find that I am not always open to accepting what I so wholeheartedly accepted as a child: God is God, and I am not.
My mistakes had become an unplanned pregnancy and my life was ruined, or so I believed.
I found myself pregnant at 17. My shame was sprawled out in the small room of the local crisis pregnancy center. The counselor was composed on the couch across from me. My mother, disappointed and yet still lovingly composed, sat beside me. My mistakes had become an unplanned pregnancy and my life was ruined, or so I believed.
The counselor listened and shared her story, a story that sounded like mine, but with the benefit of many years, allowing her to tell her story from the other side. Her eyes sparkled as she spoke of her son and the man he had become, revealing a truth about unplanned pregnancy that my young mind hadn’t considered. Two fumbling humans can take part in forming another body, but they could never take credit for fashioning the human spirit.
God knew the child growing inside of me and He had a plan for that child. He still knew me and had a future for me, and there was hope for the both of us. So I left the pregnancy center that day with less shame and more hope, praying that one day I’d be the counselor listening and sharing my story from the other side.
Many years later I found myself in a ProGrace training as a women’s center volunteer.
The ProGrace mission – formed over many years of countless conversations – has a simple, fluid language that the founders used easily throughout the training. The ProGrace message resonated with me. I appreciated the secure structure of the ProGrace language and its ease in creating comfortable, open interactions with other people.
I love the clear focus of the ProGrace mission, that pregnancy involves the two lives of a mother and child and both are welcome to experience God’s grace. And I was encouraged by Denise and Angie’s ability to articulate their beliefs with love and without fear. They knew what they believed.
Grace is not our idea.
But the beautiful foundation of ProGrace isn’t a mastered formula for unpacking the Gospel message. Quite the opposite. ProGrace is instead founded on a childlike understanding that we are not authors of the good news, we are not creators of life, we are not the Savior, and grace is not our idea.
No matter where we are in our walk with Christ, no matter how well we follow and obey, we will still never be Jesus. When we allow Him to write His message of grace on our hearts, we find ourselves firm and steady in His love, living the Good News message of salvation while extending the gift of grace – the grace God so generously extends to us.
Just as pregnancy is God’s design of woman and child intertwined, salvation is God’s design of love and grace intertwined. That’s the heart of the ProGrace message.
Grace meets us where we are.
Before my weekly sessions with clients at the women’s center, I ask the Lord to help me love with His love. But ever since my day with ProGrace, I’m reminded to also ask for the confident humility of grace. Grace meets us where we are. It lifts the shame, clears the air, and gives us room. Grace is so unexpected and so undeserved, it’s nothing short of unusual. It’s this kind of extraordinary and unusual love – the sincere Good News message – I hope to reflect when listening to clients.
Because even though I’m the one sitting composed on the couch, and even though I can articulate what I believe and tell my story from the other side, I’m still God’s child, and I will never outgrow my need for His grace.