As I get older, I find myself speechless by the grace of God more and more often. As it becomes more precious and real to me, it somehow simultaneously becomes a deeper mystery. And the real gift in it is that He shows up with lessons of grace in ways that are upside down and unexpected to the world racing to get to the top. He shows up in those the world wants to esteem as low, as dismissable. He shows up among the marginalized.
I went to court a few weeks ago with a mom from Maggie’s Place who had probably seen herself as something of little or no value for most of her life. Her story involved drugs, alcohol, traumatic family upbringing, DCS involvement that was heading toward severance, and no close friendships. She came to Maggie’s Place tired, unsure, and wanting to believe she could change, but possessed only a sliver of hope. With no one speaking the truth of grace and second chances to her, she didn’t have much space in her heart to hold that hope.
Then she came to Maggie’s Place. I had the rare honor of completing her intake and then getting to be her family coach, meeting with her every other week to work on her goals. Her main goal: to reunify with her daughter she was currently facing severance from in court. What would that mean for her? First, the tangible goals. Every day, she would work on her GED. She would do her drug classes, her parenting classes, her drug testing, her counseling, everything the courts required. But then, she would do what is often the harder work. She would have to challenge herself to begin to believe that she could not only complete these classes, but that she, this woman who had been so poorly esteemed for so long, could come to a place where she would be an appropriate and fitting mother for her child.
The whole house took note of this woman’s changing heart. She was becoming confident. She was becoming a role model in the home. She was attending church and talking about God. She was facing her fears, vulnerably sharing them, and battling them with truth. She was making huge strides in her sobriety. She was being transformed by the grace of God.
As her coach, I went with her to each court date regarding her children’s DCS cases. I will never forget sitting in the courtroom that day. It was such a clear picture for me of the contrast of shame and grace. Many in the room threw her old story at her, reminding her of every wrong turn, every bad choice, every mistake. She cried but remained quiet.
Maggie’s Place had sent her with a letter speaking to the judge of the beauty of her character in the home. The judge looked at me, then looked at her and said, “Quite frankly, I am having a hard time hearing these stories from her past, because everything I have seen and read suggests that this is a changed woman.” He looked her in the eyes and told her,
“I have been on your case from the beginning. I have seen your transformation. You have amazed me. You are a rock star.”
Tears filled her eyes and mine at these words from the judge. He was in a position to be unkind and unforgiving. But instead, he met her with grace and praise. He gave her daughter back and soon after, moved for her to reconcile with her other child as well. And I believe that it is because of that grace and confidence that the judge gave her that she knows she CAN make good choices, and she can be a good mother, trusted to care for her children.
As we left the courtroom, I simply told her, “You have become a hero to me. You really have.” And it’s true. She is now on my own personal list of heroes. And that is how the kingdom of God works. He lifts up those who are low. He puts them in places of honor. This woman received the admiration of a judge. How lovely that we receive the admiration of our Father despite our own lowliness.
May we look for grace in the hidden places. May we see Him in those the world tries to keep low. May we know God as the one who redeems our story and gives grace upon grace to His children.
By Emily Fankhauser, a Maggie’s Place Family Coach