I have been fixated with this word lately. Unmerited. Getting something you don’t deserve. I’ve been thinking about it a lot in the context of unmerited grace. That moment when you screw up so totally and completely, you can only look at the person you hurt and brace yourself, only to receive, “That’s ok. I forgive you.”

I have been on the giving side of that equation a few times lately. I won’t share any of the details because they’re not important and they’re pretty trivial anyway. But in a few cases, I was hurt by someone. And when they came to me, or I called them, or whatever, instead of yelling at them, berating them, or showing them how pissed off I felt inside … I took a few deep breaths. And, as the main evidence I have that Christ is working in my life, I did what was not natural for me, and I stepped back and told them I forgave them. And then I told them what I was going to do to make it right. And they had to do nothing, except receive my unmerited grace and forgiveness.

And the response each time has always shocked me. They stand speechless. They’re almost always asking me to make sure they understood correctly, “Are you sure?” Like they want to follow up with, “I hope this isn’t some cruel joke where you get my hopes up and 2 seconds later you tell me, ‘Just kidding. Here’s all the reasons you suck!’”

And once they realize I’m serious, and not only am I willing to forgive what was broken, I’m willing to move in their direction at my expense to make it right, without fail, the response has been nothing short of joy. The body language changes, the whole mood shifts and it brings tears to my eyes to even write this, but it’s just joy.

And now, if you’re perceptive, you realize I’m not talking about me and some of my friends anymore. This is no longer some story about a time I hung out with some of my students. This is about Jesus.

Because I have repeatedly messed up my life and done things that were absolutely wrong and shameful. No, the past tense of that sentence makes it sound like I’m over it. No, I continue to sin and hurt Jesus. And Jesus continues to shower me with radical, unconditional, unmerited grace.

Every time I mess up, Jesus continues to forgive me. And He moves in my direction. At His expense, He forgives me and showers me with His love and grace.

And when I understand that. Truly understand it. I have nothing but profound joy in response.

I may never completely conquer the sin in my life that rules my heart. I may never completely eradicate the shame that I feel for the things I’ve done.

But may I never lose my deep joy when Jesus comes to pay off what I broke.