I’ve been sharing some thoughts about grace the past few weeks. It’s an interesting topic and one that is misunderstood by many Christians.

Sometimes I think God’s grace can be illustrated like Betadine, that orange antiseptic spray. When I got hurt as a kid, my mom would spray it on the wound to clean it and make it better. But when she first sprayed in on my skinned knees, they would sting and hurt in pain (then turn my entire knee orange). Mom would always say it was the pain that proved it was healing my wound and eventually it would heal and the orange color would wear off.

There is a sense in which grace is like that. It is healing. It is soothing. But it can also be painful. If I need to experience grace in my life, it may mean peeling off a scab and opening a wound. That’s necessary so I can be healed and made whole.

People come to church with regrets, and they are trying to figure out what to do with them. When those regrets bleed into shame and people walk out of church feeling bad about who they are or how they’re perceived by God and other people in the community, then that bitter root becomes even more poisonous.

I’m trying to pay closer attention so that when I see somebody come to church with regrets, I ask myself, how do I lead them to repentance and to grace without turning their regret into shame? All Christians should have the same commitment as Jesus, who was careful not to break a bruised reed.

The truth is, many Christians, including your pastor, struggle with the similar regrets. One of the hardest things for me to do as a Christian is to voluntarily confess my sin to someone else. It’s embarrassing! But when I do that, it frees me from the guilt and the shame. When we confess our sins to one another we’re healed.

We talk a lot about repentance, but not necessarily confession. But that’s a big piece of regret not turning into shame—it’s bringing what’s in darkness into the light. When I confess my sin to trustworthy people around me, the darkness loses its grip on me. To be clear, practicing confession is presenting grace in a real and authentic way.

Don’t you love it when someone at Victory gives their faith story? Most stories are not happy-ever-after stories, but where and why it’s hard and where they feel like God has let them down. That takes things further than authenticity.

Celebrating vulnerability does not come naturally. I wasn’t taught to do it. It’s not intuitive for any of us. By nature, we are self-protective, and vulnerability risks rejection. But I’ve found that the more vulnerable I’m willing to be with my fears, failures, and struggles, the greater God’s grace becomes.

My tendency can be to portray strength and self-sufficiency: “I’ve got things together, and I’m not struggling.” But when we are vulnerable about our weaknesses, about the grace we need, we set a tone that allows other people to join in. Our vulnerability creates a safe place where grace can be experienced.