Friday, April 19, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: The Joy of God's Grace for His Children

A Bad Day at McDonald’s
A devotional by Victoria Bylin

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 
–Matthew 7:1-2 (NIV)

How often have you heard this statement: “If a person is really a Christian, we’ll see evidence of it.” I’ve heard these words many times—in churches and on the radio, through social media, and out of the mouths of friends and fellow believers.

On one hand, I believe these words without question. When the Holy Spirit moves into our hearts, we change. Becoming a Christian is a little like picking up a lit stick of dynamite. Something is going to happen. At the same time, that explosion isn’t always pretty—at least that’s been true in my own life.

I’ll never forget a particularly embarrassing visit to McDonald’s. My oldest son was four years old, and he’d spent the day in pre-school while I was at work. Rather than go home (exhausted) and cook, I took him to the new McDonald’s with a play area. My son inhaled his Happy Meal and ran off to the hamster tubes and ball pit.

The clock in my head started to tick. Did I mention I was exhausted? I just wanted to go home, but those hamster tubes were one of his favorite things in the world. While I was bone tired and wanted quiet, my sweet son had spent the day following rules and being a good boy for his teachers, holding in every emotion that his four-year-old self had.

He needed to burn off some steam. I needed to lie down.

How long do I let him play? Five minutes? Ten minutes? After about ten, I did the mom thing and blew the whistle on his good time. He wasn’t happy about it. In fact, he threw the one and only tantrum of his preschool days.

I think of that now and cringe—not because of his behavior. I cringe because of mine. I didn’t lose it completely, but anger burned through me as I hauled him kicking and screaming to the car. That’s when it hit me. He needed to play as much as I needed quiet. Essentially, I’d given him cake and snatched it back before he finished it.

Anyone witnessing that scene at McDonald’s would have seen strife and anger—not the fruit of the spirit listed in Galatians:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

My humanity leaked all over the place in that moment. I didn’t look at all like a Christian. But I was . . . a struggling Christian mom in need of grace and forgiveness.

Years later, I’m still sorry we didn’t stay until he’d had burned off the tension of his own day. But something else important happened. I saw my own failings and came to a deeper understanding of grace—both my own need for it and the need to extend it to others.

Anyone watching the incident at McDonald’s would have seen strife and struggle as I carried my son kicking and screaming to the car. I didn’t feel at all like a Christian—but I was. Period. Christ did the work of redemption for me. He paid the price for my sin and selfishness, and for that I am beyond grateful.

Christians don’t always look and act like Christians. I wish we did. But the good news is that we have a God who is far more consistent—a God who never fails to love us just as we are. 

Author Bio:
Victoria Bylin is the author of 18 traditionally published romances. Known for tackling difficult subjects with great compassion, she delights in stories that shine the spotlight of God’s love on ordinary men and women facing realistic challenges.

Writing has always been a part of Victoria’s life. As a child, she wrote hundreds of letters and scribbled in journals. As an adult, she worked as a freelance journalist and editor before taking on the challenge of fiction.

She had one goal when she started her first novel: to finish a book-length manuscript, good or bad. That first effort will never see the light of day, but it led to a second manuscript and a sale to Harlequin Historical. Since then, she has written westerns and contemporary romances for both mainstream and Christian publishers, with Together With You winning the 2016 Inspirational Readers Choice Award for Best Contemporary.

Writing is a joy and a challenge for Victoria, but faith, friends and family matter to her far more. She’s a wife, mom, proud grandmother, and a dog-mom to a wacky Jack Russell Terrier. 

Originally from California, she and her husband currently make their home in Lexington, Kentucky. When she’s not writing, Victoria enjoys long walks, travel, and dark chocolate.

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