In her TED talk Listening to Shame, researcher Brene Brown says, “If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: ‘Me, too.’”
I watched the power of saying “Me, too” during a ProGrace Workshop last month. The group of church leaders I was with felt so forgiven, so trusting of each other, that they began sharing some deep and personal experiences including how they had felt “when I experienced an unplanned pregnancy” or “when the woman I was dating got pregnant.”
I had never witnessed this type of transparency in a workshop before. I got a strong sense of the Holy Spirit; He whispered in my ear that he was going to use this church to radically change this community — and it was going to be because they first understood grace for themselves. When it was time to give grace away, it would be rooted in empathy, not condescension.
This is the heart of ProGrace.
ProGrace is not just about extending grace. It’s about first understanding our own need for grace, embracing the freedom and forgiveness Christ so freely offers. Not all of us have experienced an unplanned pregnancy, but all of us “have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). So when someone comes to us and says they had sex outside of marriage and are devastated by an unexpected pregnancy, our first response can be “Me, too” because we know what it’s like to fall short of God’s perfection. We understand the guilt of disappointing ourselves and those we love.
My hope this Easter is that each one of us is growing in what it’s like to experience the radical, unmerited favor of God. That’s what grace is — a beautiful gift none of us can earn, a gift we receive when we turn over to Jesus all of our failures and he gives us back his holiness. He doesn’t just forgive our sins, he showers us with blessing and goodness and favor — everyday of our lives.
In Isaiah 61, Jesus proclaims his equality with God, saying he has been sent to “comfort all who mourn, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of despair.” Every time I read this, I picture Jesus smiling, saying he specializes in 180 degree turnarounds, that he gets great joy in taking a situation or season that we would give up on and he uses that to bring joy, hope and beauty.
When I first believe Isaiah 61 for myself, my faith is energized to believe it for others. And when I experience his grace in a powerful way for myself, it allows the words “Me, too” to roll off my tongue when I encounter anyone – regardless of their circumstances – who’s in need of his grace.
This Easter, I’m challenging myself to look at the most hopeless situation in my life and ask God to turn it around. I’m challenging myself to believe that he turns ashes into beauty, mourning into joy and despair into praise. I’m believing Jesus’ words because through his death and resurrection, he paved the way for the most miraculous turnarounds.
Not because I deserve it, but because of his grace.
Angie Weszely, CEO & Co-Founder of ProGrace