Watching the Olympics last month — and especially swimming — brought back a lot of wonderful memories for me. Although I was never an Olympic hopeful, I enjoyed competing as a swimmer, and loved getting up on the blocks and getting ready for a race. (The shorter the race, the better.) I wept this year as I watched Nick Le Clos, from South Africa, take the gold in the 200 Fly. Although I was a little sorry for Michael Phelps that at the time it seemed like this Olympics wasn’t going quite as well as I imagine he’d hoped, I knew that that gold medal meant the world to Le Clos, and meant so much for South African swimming, and for South Africa as a nation.

I watched Le Clos’s Dad pulling the country’s flag over his head to hide his tears, and I can hardly hold back the tears right now just typing and thinking about it! (I am pregnant, you know.)

{The Hubs was actually an Olympic hopeful/swam internationally for South Africa… me on the other hand…}

Early in the season, one of my last years swimming in high school, there’s a race that I specifically remember, but not because I stood on a podium for it. That summer, my best friend and I had bought matching anklets — ya know, we were in high school — just simple little hemp circles with a few small beads woven through them. I’d gotten so used to wearing mine and not taking it off, I completely forgot that I was wearing it when it was time to climb up onto the starting blocks.

One of the gentleman officiating the race noticed my anklet just before I got on the blocks and immediately disqualified me. (You weren’t allowed to wear jewelry.) I apologized profusely and quickly took it off and passed it to a teammate, and there was still time for me to mount the blocks before the race began. I begged him to let me race, but his decision was final — I could compete in the rest of the meet, but I was not going to be allowed to swim that race, because I’d shown up with an anklet when I shouldn’t have been wearing one.

I was extremely disappointed. My coach was rather annoyed with me. I longed desperately for this official to overlook my mistake — surely he could have seen that I’d immediately remedied my mistake, I wasn’t delaying the race, I was ready to go and so badly wanted to…??? I was so sorry I’d made a mistake, and I truly, deeply longed for grace.

It’s funny to look back and remember that it would’ve meant so much to me to have received a little grace that day. It wasn’t a major race, a major competition, a major loss, but I absolutely loved to swim, loved to compete, loved the event that I’d just missed the chance to compete in, and just regretted missing out because of a little mess-up. (I probably cost my team a few missed points as a result, too.)

The other day when I was struggling — just before the reminder that Jesus Says Come sunk in — I realized that there was a part of me that was only interested in certain types of grace. Hopefully you’re nothing like me, but you might be and then this will make sense to you.

Sometimes I don’t want grace because I would rather just get it right. I don’t want to make mistakes, raise my voice at my children, choose sleeping in over seeking first, allow a mild frustration to bring me to a discontented grumpiness that hangs a scratchy dusty cloud over my head for an entire day like a character from the Peanuts comic strip.

But that happens.

I hit the snooze and roll over and start the day in a confused mess {I just don’t do well when I decide to let my children be my alarm clock on a weekday}. The grumpy cloud hovers. A bug falls out of the cupboard and gives me a fright and my whole self clenches bothered and the Bear calls from the other room to ask why I just growled really loud. That one stinking bill I forgot to pay results in a happy little message in my inbox notifying me of an absolute-waste-of-money late fee. I forgot that I needed to run out for milk last night after the kids went to bed and oh man — can I just go back to bed?

The cloud hovers.

And I am absolutely cognizant — the thought is never very far away — that still, my attitude is my choice. And Jesus says come. And His mercies are new every morning.

His is Amazing Grace.

But I don’t want grace. I want to get it right by myself. I’ll take the grace to get on the starting blocks and swim the race I want to swim. But I don’t want the grace that requires me to just learn to let go, embrace my fragile humanity and glorify the Lord who loves me anyway. Accepts me anyway. Could’ve made me another way, but didn’t.

We know that God sent Jesus out of love — people who’ve never opened a Bible still have an idea that John 3:16 says something about that. But the story of this Amazing Grace keeps going, and gets better — John 3:17 says

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

From the beginning, it was never really about us getting it all right. An all-knowing God would’ve known right from the start — He created people with free will, and we will each choose our own fruit given the time and the temptation. And the planned response was never condemnation, from the start when He looked for Adam and Eve in the garden, He made a sacrifice to clothe them, as if to say Forget the fig leaves — I will cover you. I want to show you grace.

Are you sewing fig leaves these days? Trying to walk out life free from error and on your own terms? Could I encourage you to embrace the grace that is yours for the taking? I’m trying to let go and receive it — and when I do, these life -giving reminders whisper joy to my soul: You are loved and welcomed. When you hide, He looks for you.

The longer I live, the more amazing it becomes: this freely given, but oh-so-costly gift, Grace.

It’s ours for the taking.