Those of you who grew up in the South or the Midwest likely spent each Sunday in church. I was no exception. My parents taught Sunday school. My dad sang in the choir. My sisters and I wore our best dresses, clean and freshly pressed. Our hair was in curls, and our shoes were polished. We sang hymns to the accompaniment of an old organ, surrounded by glorious stained-glass windows. The sermon would typically lull me to sleep as I lay my head on my mother’s lap. I viewed God as Creator, as Holy, and as very, very distant. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I learned God isn’t distant, not unreachable at all. I discovered He is actually mine.
My teen years were fairly turbulent. While I still held on to strong family and close community, my failures in sports and cheerleading and my low opinion of my physical appearance greatly diminished my social confidence. I found that drinking seemed to empower me and enable me to be much more social. I was always good for a laugh. I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I never killed anyone while driving drunk. God is so full of a mercy I don’t deserve.
One Friday evening I was cruising the few blocks of my small town with my friend Rosie. She was sharing a heartache with me, and I ached with her. I had no real answer for her, other than to suggest that she go home with me and spend the night. Then I remembered seeing the moving van in front of the church parsonage earlier in the week. I wondered if we should visit the new pastor. Maybe he would have a word of comfort for her. So, that was our plan. We’d get a good night’s sleep and pay a visit to the pastor.
We stepped to the door of the parsonage on Saturday morning and introduced ourselves to the young pastor and his wife. Rosie poured out her heart, and Pastor Larry listened intently. He offered compassionate responses. What came next was of greatest value. Pastor Larry shared his own powerful story. He told us about his life before and after he knew Jesus.
Say what? That was a new concept. He told us how he had been dramatically transformed. He then went on to share the gospel from the Scriptures. He asked us if we would like to submit our lives to Jesus and know Him as our personal Lord and Savior. I had no doubt. Everything within me was shouting “yes!” Rosie was just as sure. We prayed to turn our lives over to Jesus Christ.
Peace covered me. The veil was lifted from my eyes. A life-long mystery had been solved. God was no longer distant. I could not explain the knowing, but I knew I had been changed. My heart was free, and I felt new. I had a new-found confidence. The God of the universe was now my Lord and Savior. Unimaginable.
My friend Rosie? She was also transformed.
The church youth group swelled with on-fire teens who eventually hit the road to tell others in nearby towns about Jesus. Many others in that small town heard the gospel for the first time and responded to God’s saving grace. An incredible revival took place, thanks to the willingness of a young pastor and his family to relocate to a tiny church and town and simply be available to folks in need. Simple obedience. The fruit of their ministry has been immeasurable.
Eighteen years in church, and I never really knew truth until that Saturday morning. I think about that a lot. How many others sit in church and have no knowledge of the relationship they could be having with Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit? This is glory unrealized. I didn’t meet the living God until I met a pastor who had genuinely been transformed himself by the living God. It’s like Paul’s conversion on the road to and during his stay in Damascus. It’s the sort of life-changing stuff that produces a passion so deep in an individual that bystanders cannot help but be impacted. You just can’t shrug off or rationalize that kind of miracle.
My introduction to the Light of Truth was over 40 years ago. I’d love to say the years that followed were smooth sailing, but God had much to teach me. Because I am a strong-willed child and a bit of a slow learner, the lessons were arduous. God is continually refining His children for His glory. But just as trials are part of the journey, so is grace. Grace is the greatest miracle of all.
It took me years to discover grace. Grace was elusive to me because I really didn’t want it. I was totally focused on what I wanted. I wanted a change in circumstances, not the grace to live with those circumstances. You may relate to that statement.
Join me, and let’s dialogue together. Grace is now my favorite topic, and I can’t wait to share it with you.
Joy in Jesus,