When I was a little girl, my Grandmother had a chalkboard in her kitchen here in Terre Haute. When I visited, we would both sneak around when the other wasn’t looking and leave a little note on the chalkboard for each other. When I arrived for my visit there would always be one, and when I left I made sure she had a note waiting for her after I was gone. It’s a cherished memory.
My mom just moved and handed the chalkboard over to me as she packed. I knew exactly where it would go–right in my kitchen. I hung it up immediately, but wasn’t sure what to write on it so it sat empty for a few days.
Then I read Romans 3:24 and knew it would be my first verse to go up. I have heard Romans 3:23 many times in my life, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It’s part of the Romans Road to Salvation that I was taught as a child. However, somehow I had always managed to gloss over or ignore verse 24 that follows. “And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.” I ignored the BEST PART for so many years. I am in awe of this verse. I am sinful, yet I am justified freely through Jesus. It’s the Gospel message in two verses. I’ve been thinking/praying/discussing this verse for the past month.
And then, I had a rough morning. It was as if God said, “I love that you are embracing the beauty in these words. May I show you how this looks in real life? Can I help you apply it today?” Of course, if He’d really asked me, and I knew what was about to happen I would have politely declined the lesson and instead just looked at the pretty words. But alas, He loves me more than to let me miss an opportunity to see His words come alive and renew and transform my mind.
My daughter had thrown her third fit of the morning, and it was only 9 am. She was screaming, disobeying, saying “NO MOMMY!!” to everything I asked her to do. I was struggling to handle it and struggling to want to handle it, honestly. She was thrusting her body off of the stairs when I tried to put her in time-out, and that’s when I let out my own yell. Loudly. And as my little children are prone to do, they promptly rebuked me and demanded repentance, because “we don’t yell, Mommy. It’s not nice to yell, Mommy.” Little angels. So I told my daughter I was sorry and explained that we both needed to work on our obedience and our listening. I said it because I’m supposed to set the example, but they were difficult words to get out in the moment. Then I spent the next 10 minutes walking around the house picking up, doing laundry, and venting to God (while she continued screaming). I kept saying, “God I do not understand how I am supposed to handle this differently. I feel like all she does is throw fits. I don’t have any other options but to yell. No one on the planet would be able to address this calmly every single time. It feels impossible!”
Before I knew it, I had walked right by that chalkboard. I stopped and stared at the verse for several minutes. I was telling God how frustrated I was and how I knew I was supposed to handle it differently, but I didn’t want to and honestly didn’t think I should have to. I read it a couple times just hoping something would help me in that moment. Then I sensed the Holy Spirit moving as I realized I was justifying my sin.
I replayed it in my head as if I were explaining it to my daughter. I think God was telling me, “Oh sweetie. That loud, mean spirited yell that just left your mouth—that’s still sin. You still fell short. There is no excuse and no amount of frustration that would ever justify your sin, baby girl. And I knew you would do that. I knew you would struggle with anger as a mom. I knew you would even try to justify it at times. So I gave you the only thing that would actually justify your sins. Jesus. Remember? Remember how pretty those words look on that board and how they touched your heart? Let them change you, sweetie.”
I’m in tears of gratitude almost every time I think about it again. His grace is so deep and so real. I’m so glad he showed me, yet again, that my sin can’t be justified by either my righteous acts or the lies I tell myself about my sin not actually being sin. I am, and will always be, justified freely ONLY through Christ. I am so thankful He cares enough about me to teach me, to continue working out my salvation, to finish the good works He began in me.
My daughter eventually calmed down that morning, and so did I. It took some time, and I imagine it won’t be the last time we have a heated moment together. But I must say, I understand her a little more now. You see, I too am often found acting childish and oblivious to the depths of my Father’s love, yet here I stand. Justified freely. What a cherished gift.
Maggie Johnson is a stay-at-home mom to her two cuties, Broderick and Mazie. Her other interests include helping her hard-working husband Derek at their Chick-Fil-A, reading, global missions, teaching about Jesus, watching and playing sports, and date nights. Her dislikes include cooking breakfast, cooking lunch, and cooking dinner.