Childhood Abuse and Grace

By Sherri L. Board

I just finished reading, Grace, by Max Lucado. Since its release in 2012, I’ve had a rather interesting relationship with this book. For years I would visit various bookstores, walk up to it on a bookshelf or in one of those freestanding cardboard displays, and stare at the cover. I wouldn’t even pick it up. I would just stare at the word, "grace." I would be thinking that someday I would really like to read the book. But moreover I was mostly thinking about John Newton’s song that goes, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” I felt damned, not worthy of saving. I could never receive God’s grace.

What is a "wretch"? Merriam-Webster’s definition of a wretch is, “a miserable person: one who is profoundly unhappy or in great misfortune.” So being sexually, physically, and emotionally abused as a child, I could relate to this definition. And if we look to Isaiah 53:6: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (NIV). Was the reason why I couldn’t even pick up a copy of Grace because I was unhappy and had lost my way? More than likely, yes. And had I, as Lucado illustrates, said to God, “... I do not want you to be my king. I prefer a kingless kingdom. Or, better still, a kingdom in which I am king,” p. 34. Yes. I couldn’t even touch the book because I had weighed my “ … anchor from the port of sin,” p. 35. I was keeping myself from something God wanted me to have.

Now what is, "grace?"  Here’s Merriam-Webster’s definition: “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.” And I especially like what Lucado says of grace. He calls it a  “spiritual heart transplant,” p. 8. And he reminds us that we do not earn grace. “When grace happens,” says Lucado, “we receive not a nice compliment from God but a new heart. Give your heart to Christ, and he returns the favor,” p. 8. 

Furthermore, Lucado says that receiving grace is not something that we do. It is something that Christ does. He writes,

“[Christ] moves in and commandeers our hands and feet, requisitions our minds and tongues. We sense his rearranging: debris into the divine, pig’s ear into silk purse. He repurposes bad decisions and squalid choices. Little by little a new image emerges,” p. 10.

There is no one who cannot receive God’s grace. Anyone can incline their hearts in faith toward Christ. And the moment we do, that which once may have made wretches out of us is removed and replaced with the Holy Spirit of God. Newton was right. Grace is amazing.

Now, you may be wondering how God finally got a copy of Grace into my hands. The book was a prerequisite for a course I later took. What a perfect example of God’s “unmerited divine assistance.” And after reading it, I do not feel like a wretch. I feel like the recipient of a magnificent gift. For Christ has given me a new heart—stamped, sealed, and approved.