Loser’s Guide to God’s Grace 02: God’s Answer for Losers: Grace!

Grace was made for losers like you and me.

Truly. It is so perfect for us.

Because grace, as some define it, is “unmerited favor.”

This means we can do nothing to deserve it. See? This is great news for the underserving! It’s something for nothing, and we losers have too much of nothing, right? (And it makes us ill at ease. Tee-hee.)

A fabulous example of grace is Ralphie’s dad in the film A Christmas Story, when he gives Ralphie the Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Ralphie has done nothing to deserve this ultimate gift. In fact, he has done a lot of rotten things!

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  • He is mean to his little brother.
  • He abandons his friend Flick in the snowy schoolyard with his tongue stuck to a light pole.
  • He lies about his friend Schwarz to save his own skin and gets Schwarz in big trouble.
  • He beats the snot out of that bully Scott Farkis.

Ralphie is a bad brother, a bad friend and a bad son!

Yet on Christmas morning, he receives the gift he’s been dreaming of. By the unmerited favor of his old man, he is made the happiest of boys.

That’s grace. God’s love poured out lavishly on us, despite all the reasons we don’t deserve it. It’s not a Red Ryder BB Gun, but it does guarantee us a lifetime of joy in the presence of One who knows us wholly and loves us completely.

“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” says the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:8. While we were still the kind of losers who betray our friends, abuse our siblings and beat the snot out of our enemies, Jesus Christ laid down His life in a sacrament of love for us.

That’s grace!

And it’s yours, right now, no matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done. Anne Sports, author of the beautiful novel How Thin the Veil, says that when God looks at us, He doesn’t see broken or whole — or even good or bad — He sees “Mine.” We are His not because of anything we do or don’t do, but because He made us, and He loves us. Period.

The incomparable Robert Farrar Capon says that God didn’t need us, because He was complete in the Trinity. But He wanted us … the same way we don’t need fine wine and rich chocolate, but we want it. We’re His fine wine, beloved because He made us and wanted us and delights in us. And it’s nothing to do with us. We don’t have to be good to get this grace. We don’t have to be deserving to get this grace. We can be the biggest darn losers in the world, and He still looks at us with eyes of love and says, “Mine!”

And this acquisition of grace is one area where we losers have the big advantage over the winners of the world. Because you can’t get grace by deserving it, you see? The winners are used to the accolades they deserve. They know they can be smart enough, good enough, strong enough to get what is rightfully theirs! But grace is something that nobody but Jesus is smart enough, good enough or strong enough to get … It can’t be gotten by deserving it.

So if you’re a loser, and you know it, you don’t think to yourself, “I’ll do some of my famous good works, and God will love me!” Because you don’t have any famous good works. You got nothing. But the good, strong, smart winner person can easily fall into the trap of believing their good works will get them some grace. “Ha-ha winner! You can never get it that way!” we losers laugh. (Because we’re bitter and snotty about the winners, really.)

Grace is there for all of us, winners and losers alike, but it’s easier for the losers to get it, because we know we don’t deserve it. In the grace-getting competition, at least, we can be the winners. There. Don’t you feel better about yourself already?

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Interlude

Interlude … what kind of loser are you?

 Are you the kind of loser who would be a winner if it weren’t for the crappy circumstances that dog you? Maybe everything always goes wrong for you.

Doesn’t matter!

Jesus said, “So the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16). No matter how badly things have gone wrong for you, no matter how you ended up at the end of the line, in His eyes, you are #1, His beloved child! And His accounting of you is the only one that matters.

Loser’s Guide to Grace 01 – My Stupid Story

DISCLAIMER: My true identity (and yours!) is BELOVED CHILD OF CHRIST, so in that sense, I cannot be termed a loser at all. But in contrast with other important writers and ministers who try to explain God’s grace to you, I am the biggest loser.

I want you to trust what I say about God’s grace because I am a loser like you. Let me give you my bona fides. So you can trust that I am not some beautiful, successful person who has never been on the losing side.

How big of a loser am I?

My very humble dream for my life was to become a wife and mother, and have a cool car with a nice sound system and a home by the water (and really the car and home didn’t matter that much — the family was the main thing). My plan failed pretty spectacularly. I didn’t marry until I was 36 years old. My husband already had two lovely children and after we were married told me he didn’t want any more. If you are a childless woman who always supposed she would have children, you can understand the kind of sucker punch this is. I decided not to take my husband’s decision lying down (as it were). Rather, I would take my friend Big Gay Luke’s advice.

“Oh, just get pregnant anyway. What’s the worst that can happen? James sits down in a lawn chair in the front yard, smokes cigarettes and drinks beer for the next 20 years.” This was the modus operandi for reluctant fathers in the neighborhood where Luke and I grew up.

The flaw in the plan? I never got pregnant and my husband wouldn’t hear of adopting. Here’s what all this did to me, psychologically, based on my failure to realize I was the beloved of Christ:

It convinced me there was something wrong with me because my husband loved his first wife enough to have two babies with her, but he would not have a single one with me.

My doctor told me some reasons why I was infertile, but there was nothing to be done for it because my husband didn’t care. He was glad! Then, when I was 42 or so, my doctor told me due to nasty tumors I had better have a hysterectomy. All chance of ever conceiving a child, dead, dead, dead.

This is how much of a loser I was! Dumpy, childless and facing a freaking hysterectomy at 42.

My husband traveled for his living. He was on the road all the time. I went with him a lot of the time, but he was gone when I got this news from my doctor about these tumors. He called to ask about my doctor visit, but he was on his way out with clients … and I knew when he called back he would be tired and tipsy and no real help to me. Especially because he didn’t care whether or not I had a uterus!

So here I was, home alone with this devastating news, overweight, childless for life, with no hope for the future at all. I could see many long years of not being a mother unfolding before me. I did what any woman in my position would do that night. I ran a hot bath, drank a bottle of wine and ate half a dozen soft, frosted sugar cookies.

And look here, I was a Christian. I had been a Christian from the time I was a child. I knew the Gospel as my church preached it: perfect God can’t be in the presence of sin, but all people are sinners, so God sent His perfect Son to die as a sacrifice for my sins. He rose again and thus made a way for me to be reunited with God, avoid hell and have heaven in my future. What this Gospel meant to me at this moment was: I have at least 30, maybe 40 or even 50 long years of non-motherhood to get through, with no particular hope, until I can finally be with Jesus.

Bring on the damned sugar cookies!

See? Big, big loser. The one thing that other women fall into by accident or pop out like clockwork, I could not do at all — in part because my husband didn’t love me as much as he loved his first wife! What a freaking loser!

Maybe your story is far different, but you still feel like a loser on some level.

I don’t know what your loser story is. Maybe it’s much worse than mine. Maybe it’s not half as bad. My point is, I am not a great Christian leader who grew up in a fine family, married the perfect Christian spouse and experienced every blessing of God … I got hurt a lot, kicked around by circumstances, and worst of all: caused a lot of my own problems. I understand pain. Maybe not your particular pain, but the pain of being a loser. I get that. For sure.

And yet I can say … In Christ I am strong, I am rich, I am joyful, and I am loved, loved, loved. And SO ARE YOU.

More on that in the days ahead.

Introduction to the Loser’s Guide to God’s Grace

I love Joel Osteen. Ever since I first saw him on TV. He has such a great smile and sweet spirit. He speaks kindly of everyone, and his sermons are a guaranteed pick-me-up. His wife, too, seems really nice, and really pretty. They are a gorgeous couple. And very successful. With his books, and their church, and his TV program and their preaching tours. I expect they bring happiness and hope to a lot of folks.

Except to some losers like me who have a tendency to look at someone like Joel and say, “Well of course it is easy for him to believe in God’s blessings. He was born to a nice Christian family, married a beautiful Christian girl, inherited a great ministry that his dad started, and now has a lovely successful life. What cause would he ever have to doubt God’s goodness?”

Joel’s a winner. I’m a loser. Simple as that.

Now here is where I want to speak to you especially if you too are a loser. If your dream didn’t come true, if God didn’t bless and promote you, if you struggle with your self-image, your weight, your health, your kids, your lack of kids, your career, your finances, your emotions, depression, loneliness, hopelessness, whatever the heck your problem is — if you’re not good enough, not strong enough, not pretty enough, not rich enough, not courageous enough — if you’ve ever thought to yourself that it’s easy for Joel Osteen because he doesn’t have your problems … I have something to tell you! And you can believe me, because I have been in your shoes, and I know how hard it is to be you, and yet I still have good news about God’s grace for you.

For us losers, the big win of God’s grace is not as apparent as it is for the Joel Osteens of the world, but it is every bit as wonderful and amazing and overwhelming and game-changing as you can possibly imagine. And it’s yours, for the taking. Trust me on this. I know. I’m a loser.