The Fallacy of Checkbox Grace

Kathleen M Peters, Speaker/Author



“The process of holiness isn’t about what I do or don’t do, but about what God is doing to me. (Kathleen’s Gratitude Journal – Feb 2017)

I am no comedian. I can’t tell a joke to save my life. Too many details to get straight. But one thing you’d discover if you were to hang out with me is that I love to laugh. And laugh often I do. Mostly at myself. Not a self-deprecating laugh, but one with a deep recognition and appreciation of my imperfections. When the stakes are low, I get a good giggle at my foibles.

As a recovering perfectionist, this is healthy behavior for me. The fact I can chuckle at my minor mess-ups is a sign of the healing work I’ve done. And I’ve worked damn hard for that laugh, friends.

Damn hard.

Just this morning I convulsed with a snorting snicker at the discovery of a kitchen appliance I found in the sink. You see, hours before I had done a complete dumpster dive in my own garbage can looking for said gadget. Oh, yes. A good 5 minutes was spent pulling out the remains of tzatziki sauce smeared gyro wrappers, disgusting used paper towels, and old coffee grounds onto my kitchen counter.

Okay, I realize I just lost half of you. I hear your screams,  “Your kitchen counter?”  I know. Don’t tell my husband.

I put it all back in!

Here’s the thing (for those who have stayed with me…the blessed germaphobes are now mentally disinfecting my entire kitchen), as I laughed out loud because the lost item was there in plain sight the entire time,  I was reminded again of the beauty of God’s grace.

Because of my need to get everything always right, including my faith journey with God, grace has tripped me up. I could never wrap my perfectionist brain around it. Here was a God who sacrificed His own son to save me because He loved me without condition and then also seemed to demand I love Him back by performing a series of right actions. God’s grace felt riddled with contradiction.

And church did not help.

Before I gave my life to Jesus, I was told God loved me, accepted me as-is, and if I would follow Him, He would not only forgive me but He would forget it all. He would make me clean. White as snow. Let me tell you, to a 15 year old who was well aware of her faults, was a Whiz at hiding them, but exhausted at keeping them that way, this was a no-brainer. Sweet. All Jesus wants from me is a relationship. He wants to love me. Be my friend. I’m in!

And then the bait and switch.

Once Jesus and I became friends, I got the clear message there was now plenty of work to do. The work of holiness.

I got the course requirements for participation:

  •  a daily MORNING Quiet Time which included Bible reading, prayer (don’t forget to praise and thank Him before asking for stuff), and journaling
  • don’t gossip
  • don’t listen to music that doesn’t explicitly encourage your faith
  • keep other Christians accountable (code: make sure they’re following the course requirements)
  • love others so you can tell them about Jesus (this is how you show Him you love Him)
  • memorize scripture
  • wear modest clothing
  • serve

And so I worked out my faith, my holiness like it was my job because I already knew how to work hard. Marking off the checkboxes that told me I was okay became my jam. And I was good at it, people.

What I wasn’t good at was understanding God’s love. It was a mystery to me. I desperately wanted to feel the unconditional love the Bible spoke of, and I was pretty sure there was something wrong with me that I couldn’t feel it, let alone accept it.

And then a transformation began. As I felt God leading me to let go of my perfectionist ways, as He showed me how my rules and checkboxes  were getting in my way and what He really wanted was for me was to be known and loved by a Papa Daddy who adored his little girl, I then got glimpses of His grace.

Even today the memories of laying the checkboxes on the altar of holiness, causes me to weep. I still can’t believe it. Ya’ll, His love overwhelmed me. As I set down all the have-to’s, the course requirements to be holy, He opened my eyes to a love that cannot be measured. A love so enveloping, sometimes I find it difficult to breath. It’s unfathomable. It has changed me in profound ways.

Love does that.

There was a reason why I was confused about grace. You probably spotted it already. Holiness was never about what I do; holiness was and is about what God is doing to me as I learn to receive the love a Father who is so very proud of me as-is.

So, today after finding the lost kitchen appliance, I laughed. I was reminded of a time I toiled and rummaged through garbage looking for God’s love, and all along it was just sitting out in the open waiting for me to see it. Because isn’t that really what God does? He delights in the finding.  And I am so very glad to find grace.

With love, Kathleen






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