About Grace is Messy

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“God loves you just as you are, and not as you should be, because you will never be as you should be.”

~Brennan Manning

Steve headshot 1 2016

What is messy grace?

People ask me that all the time.

Most people understand and agree that life is messy, but to project our messiness onto a beautiful concept like grace sometimes makes some people squirm.

Have you ever felt hopeless? In quiet moments, have you ever believed that all the bad things you have done in life were beyond redemption? Have you ever found yourself at the end of your rope or struggled as shame whispered in your ear that you are only the sum of all the miserable mistakes you’ve made?

I am Steve Austin and I’ve had bruises on my knees and left the carpet at the altar well-worn from hours of begging God to save my wretched soul. The sad thing is, every time I stood up, I fastened my mask of performance, picked up that load of shame again, and carried it right back down the center aisle of the church, believing I was beyond all hope and unworthy of God’s perfect love.

I lived that life for thirty years. Shame tried to choke the life out of me and I believed my only escape was suicide.

But I am still here, living proof that no matter how hard life gets, no matter how much you feel like an outcast, we always have a path to Grace. If you are anything like me, that path is often winding and unpredictable, but it’s worth the fight.

This is what messy grace looks like in all our lives.

“Grace is messy” has transformed in the past six years, from a slogan, to a concept, to an online community that goes much deeper than the blog.

What’s our mission?

To love beyond the labels. To love God and everyone we come in contact with, no matter their race, color, religion, creed, disability, or sexual orientation.

So this is a Christian community? Sure. And we’re also atheists, agnostics, Protestants, Catholics, non-religious Jews, mystics, blacks, whites, straights, gays, transgenders, and everyone in-between. We’re not here to argue sacred vs. secular or Sunday vs. Monday. We’re less concerned with theological rightness and far more passionate about kindness. We’re here to encourage everyone who shows up, from all walks of life, to keep on keepin’ on in the constant push and pull of a life that is rarely ever easy.

Jesus commanded universal love. Period.Not just to those we love and respect and agree with. Not even just to those we don’t quite see eye-to-eye with. But, even to our enemies. The love Jesus talked about is transformational, experiential, and often mind-boggling. He hung out with sexual outcasts (the woman at the well) and criminals (Matthew, the tax collector), and Jesus even made room for the religious elite when their hearts were open (Nicodemus).

We find the love of Jesus on the other side of the tracks.

How do we do this?

By sharing our stories.

Lives are changed by stories. So we tell ours boldly. Our goal is to be respectfully raw. To never shy away from hard conversations, but to connect with others in their brokenness. Because we’re all just that. Broken. And we’re all in this together.  

We tell true stories about imperfect parenting, abuse, our struggles with mental illness, recovery from addiction, and the all-too-common struggle with church.

We want people to know it’s ok to have a meltdown. We have found ourselves in desperate times and places where we needed something other than Jesus. Like a nap. And strong medicine. And a good hard cry. And a friend who will just listen.

The Grace is Messy Community is completely inclusive of the LGBT+ community. As a result, we’ve gained many new friends and lost a few. We hope they’ll join us soon enough. But while we’re sad to see some go, we press on, believing that our highest calling is to tell anyone who will listen that there’s room at God’s table for them, too.

We’re not looking to win any popularity contests. We just want to sit with people who are longing for love and acceptance. For a place to rest their weary souls and a friend to lighten their load for a while.

Grace isn’t limited to gold cross necklaces that hang on the necks of little old ladies. Grace doesn’t only dwell in the multicolored glow of stained glass windows and creaky wooden pews. Grace is available every second of every minute for every human being who will ever live. To bind our wounds, heal our hearts, and accept us just as we are.

I’ve heard the argument, “But Jesus wasn’t just a grace guy! He was the perfect balance of grace and truth and those two things are at the opposite ends of the spectrum!” I disagree. As a dear friend of mine says: Grace is Truth. The two are not mutually exclusive.

That’s the whole premise of the Grace is Messy Community. It’s a safe place for you to come and share your story of a messy life: past, present, and future. A messy life, redeemed by radical, messy, unconditional Grace.

Being a part of the Patheos family has been a great honor. The readers and bloggers that call this place home have taught me so much, making me a better writer and human. I’d love to stay in touch with you, now that I am transitioning back to my personal blog. Please follow me at iamsteveaustin.com. Thank you!