This was an interesting weekend for me, with both the heights of joy and the deepest wells of sadness. The joy; being back at Cedarwood, building on past friendships and building new ones as well, and experiencing the joy of a loving Christian community. The sadness; hearing that a friend and former co-worker is battling sickness, and witnessing the aftermath of a fatal car accident on my way home. In the first case, the sadness was tempered slightly by my knowledge of this person's faith and hope in God even through difficult circumstances. However, the second was sobering as a reminder of how everything can change in one moment.
How does this relate to grace? Here are some things God reminded me this weekend:
1. My very existence is by His grace. The fact that He even allowed me to be born, never mind grow up healthy with a wonderful family and be allowed to serve Him and actually teach others about Him, is by His Grace. All in all, I've done nothing to deserve it. Sure I've done good things here and there, but I better than anyone else know my own heart, and God knows my own heart better than I know it. That alone is proof to me that God is a God of grace, because He's allowed me to continue to exist despite myself.
2. The end of my life will be by His grace. I'll be honest with you- I love living. I love the life God has granted me. I love my family. I love my friends. I love my church. I love serving God. I love laughter. I love the fact that God has granted me the ability to torture others with puns. I love the fact that I've been able to influence young minds to do the same :) . I love this life - but I know it's nothing compared to the life ahead. When God chooses to take me from this life to the next, it will be by His grace, because I live by Jesus' promise in John 14:2 that He has prepared a place for me in His Father's house.
3. That He would use me to share His love and truth with others is by His grace. If there's one thing I've learned in my years of ministry it's that any sacrifice on my part for God, if I can even call it a sacrifice, has been showered back with blessings beyond what I can even describe. The joy I have experienced in relationships has more than eclipsed any financial sacrifice I have made. The knowledge that God used me in the smallest of areas has more than eclipsed any sacrifices of time or energy. The understanding that God used me to comfort someone in distress has more than eclipsed any emotional suffering I endured. I've sat in the hospital with a child dying of cancer, and I cried more than I ever cried in my life before that visit, knowing that it would be my last with him. I've sat across the table from someone sharing how they had been abused as a child and then went home ready to put my fist through a wall from what I think was righteous anger. I've felt the pain of rejection when friends have left me because to them I represented a God they decided the couldn't trust. I say these things not to build myself up because I know many who have done far more and been far more faithful- but to say that He has allowed me to experience these things by His grace and by His grace He has blessed me through them.
I spoke about the man born blind so that God's glory would be seen through his healing. I have to wonder what he was thinking as Jesus said these words, considering that he had lived a life of suffering due to his blindness (he was a beggar.) Well, maybe I don't have to wonder too much, because even though the suffering actually continued with his healing as he was banished from the synagogue, we see his in his final exchange with Jesus that he saw grace as far more than just having his physical eyes opened.
John 9:38 "Yes, Lord, I believe!" the man said. And he worshiped Jesus.
Yes Lord. I believe.