Ripples of Sin and Grace

I’m attending the D6 Conference in Greensboro, NC. If you are not familiar with D6, here is a link. It is a great resource for those interested in seeing discipleship as the priority for both church and home.

A workshop I attended today was a total misnomer. It was titled, “Freedom to Parent Relentlessly.” I went because, although I have previous experience at step-parenting, I don’t think I have enough experience to solve the problem of Christian parents not taking responsibility for discipling their children, which is a major focus of my book project. (I can’t wait for the day I can say my “upcoming book!”) I went thinking I was going to learn principles of how to overcome the world’s influence by intentional (and relentless) parenting that I could put in my book as helpful tips. The presenter talked about nothing even close to that.

Instead, he focused on what he described as the main obstacle for Christian parents accepting the responsibility of discipleship instead of contracting it out to the local church: their own bondage to a childhood event, which leads to a vicious cycle of believing a lie, pursuing their own solution to their problem, and then reaping the consequences of trying to handle it on their own instead of letting the Lord set them free. As a result, they unintentionally pass along some form of bondage to the next generation—their children.

700x411-FiC-Ripples.jpgThis got me to thinking of ripples of water on a pond or lake.  When a rock is tossed into a body of still water, what follows the impact are ripples—concentric circles carrying the energy of impact far beyond the point of entry. Sin is much like the rock. Its impact creates ripples in our lives far beyond the date of the event. The workshop presenter told the story of the day when he was eleven years old that he quite innocently came upon a pornographic magazine hidden in a play fort by a friend. The ripples of that event extended well into his adult life.

I also remember vividly, while a teenager, telling my mom that I dented the bumper of the family car and her angry reply.  “You’re going to be just like Billy! she said.” So you understand, my older brother, Billy, was considered by my mom to be the black sheep of the family and it was well understood by the rest of us. (To be fair to my brother, he went on to earn a college degree and has been quite successful in his life.) To say what she said meant to me she believed I was going to be a failure. I had disappointed her once again and her words caused ripples of doubt for many years that I could ever be successful in life. The fear of disappointing people still has its occasional effect on me decades after the impact of her comments.

I work with college students on a daily basis who are dealing with the continuing ripples from the impact of sin in their lives—the sin of others and their own.  Divorce, neglect, abuse, alcoholism, and a parent’s imprisonment are just a small sampling of what I have witnessed being thrust into their lives with tremendous impact and the rippling that has followed them to campus. Their own sins, too, have similar impacts.  Addictions to pornography and alcohol, illicit sex, and cheating, bring internal shame and affect their relationships, not only presently, but quite possibly far into the future.

These ripples create exactly what our Enemy longs for each of us—to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10) our hope and our lives. Years of ripples. Years of internal despair because we try to manage these things on our own without God. We hide them, attempt to numb or distract ourselves, or seek to be perfect to prove they have no effect and we are worthy. This is the devil’s desire for us, to rely on ourselves. But notice what Jesus says following his summary of the devil’s plan. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

While the devil hopes to cause ripples of destruction in our lives through the impact of sin, Jesus, on the other hand, seeks to counteract that impact with one of his own—grace and forgiveness. And that impact also causes ripples which extend through our lives, but these are ripples of grace, and rather than bringing destruction, they restore hope and life.

As a college freshman, the ripple effect of my mother’s sin and my own was having its destructive impact on my life. I was desperate and cried out to God. Suddenly, on a cold November’s night, his love and forgiveness came down into my life and the ripples of grace have been present ever since. While there have been many ups and downs over the years, my hope is still intact, and my life grows fuller every day.

Indeed sin can have a terrible impact, but the impact of the God’s presence in one’s life can counteract sin’s effects. Ripples of grace are always stronger.

© Jim Musser 2018

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