Dear Rescued One,
When I read this week’s prompt, my mind immediately jumped to my most recent hard season: the week before Joey’s birth. As I pondered, however, I realized that there were so many other difficult seasons about which I could write. It is so easy to be so near-sighted – to forget the grace of yesterday in light of the grace of today. While I definitely want to revel in today’s grace, I think it is so important to remember the legacy of God’s goodness as well.
It is so easy in our culture to smile and pretend everything’s good. And we tell ourselves this lie so often we actually believe it. The truth is, I’ve had a wonderful life so far. I’m well fed, stylishly clothed, sheltered and warm, blessed with opportunity upon opportunity, well-traveled, educated, and surrounded by the life-giving love of godly family and friends. My husband reminded me once as we sat discussing the theology of suffering, though, that you can’t just assume from outward appearances that a person who “has it all together” doesn’t “know what true suffering is” just because they haven’t spent time starving in a third world country.
Suffering is a reality for every individual person in this fallen, cursed world. Until Jesus returns at the end of the age and consummates his rulership with the New Heavens and New Earth, it will continue to be a reality. What is so amazing about our God, though, is He doesn’t wait until the end of the age to redeem and rescue. Our world’s history of suffering and sin is the perfect canvas on which God displays His grace and love and goodness and beauty.
“Preach the gospel to yourself daily,” is a practice we encourage in our home. Often this is simply reminding ourselves of the “facts” of the gospel – creation, fall, redemption. On a more personal level, though, it is reminding ourselves of the legacy of grace God has weaved into our lives. I’d like to write that down today, to pick a few hard seasons of my life and proclaim the grace of God in their midst.
I had an acute “season of suffering” that started when my childhood was touching the fringe of adolescence. I must have been 12 or 13 years old at the oldest when I found my only baby sister unconscious in the water. I thought she had drowned. I didn’t know she was alive. And I had 10 minutes before I had to catch the school bus.
I had been banging on the bathroom door and yelling at her all morning. It was my turn to shower. Little did I know she didn’t respond because she couldn’t respond. Finally, I barged in to the most difficult thing I had ever seen in my short life. I pulled her out of the tub, screamed for my parents. They came running up the stairs. She was breathing. “Go to school, Meg.” Go to school? How can I go to school after something like that? I went. I don’t think I heard a single thing any of my teachers said that day.
I bottled this up for years. Kept it in. Didn’t think about it. Didn’t talk about it. Years later, God cut open the infected wound and began cleaning it out, showing me His gracious hand.
You see, God created humans with a nose. Quite a beautiful, wonderful, awkward little thing. ½ to 1 inch long, sticking out of the front of your face. Just long enough to stay above the surface of the water. Just tall enough to bring life-giving, life-sustaining air to a body otherwise fully submerged. God’s grace gave my sister her beautiful little nose, and it saved her life.
He timed my barging into that bathroom perfectly. Minutes later might have been too late. But I wasn’t minutes later.
And now, more than 15 years later, my beautiful and talented and quirky and friendly little sister is alive and thriving. I am so thankful for every minute of her life since that day. Every. Minute.
About this same time, and over the next few years, I was stalked. I won’t go into the details. Suffice it to say that a young man from the church we were a part of took more interest in me than he should have. And on top of that, the only people who believed me were my parents. Everyone else called me a liar and put the blame on me – accusing me of seeking attention or trying to ruin this “godly” man’s reputation for selfish reasons. Again, without going into to many details, I was never actually physically threatened, but I did have very justified reason to fear for my physical safety.
How does a young woman handle this? How do you partake of the Lord’s Supper when this man is taking the same communion two rows over?
Once again, I bottled this up. Until years later I began to see that God drew a line. He never let the situation get out of control, never once allowed this young man to harm me, and used this to drive me to greater dependence on His protection and rescue. He also taught me forgiveness – how to forgive deep offenses and move on and let go instead of hold a grudge and let the hatred and bitterness fester. He taught me to actually mean it when I say, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” He built in my heart a longing for the perfect relationships with our Christian brothers and sisters after Jesus’ return, when all sin will be eradicated.
But even in these circumstances, it was easy to view myself simply as a “victim” – not in any way responsible for the things happening. Fast-forward a few years to a season in my life when I had to be confronted with the fact that I was not “basically good” but “basically sinful.” When I was not just some “good little Christian girl” but a young woman riddled with pride and self-idolatry and the propensity to justify away my “little personality quirks” instead of calling them what they actually were – God-defying self-worshiping sins.
God was gracious in two ways: first, sending a godly professor who pointed out to me Mark 2:17 – “And when Jesus heard it [Pharisees questioning why he ate with tax collectors and sinners], he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’”
“Are you sick, Megan? Are you a sinner? Because if you are well and righteous, you don’t need Jesus.”
Whoa. I was confronted with the personal application of the gospel.
Then God called me to Africa, and there He opened my eyes to the poison in my soul and began drawing it out and healing me. Painful grace.
Then a few years ago I stood at my kitchen window and watched the massive flames of the Waldo Canyon Fire spill down the hill toward my home. We escaped and went through a week of the hell of flames and smoke and destruction, to find at the end that our house and things had survived.
“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw – each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” – 1 Corinthians 3:10-15
God graciously realigned my priorities and brutally showed me where I was placing trust, what I was using the foundation of Christ to build up. His grace began loosening the grip I had tightened around things and drawing my heart toward compassion for people who needed His gospel.
And then there is the grace He showed me in the events leading up to and immediately following Josephine’s birth. I could write pages. I won’t, because I know this letter is already getting long.
The grace of God is mind-blowing, soul-saving, life-rescuing, sin-destroying, relationship-healing, priority-realigning. The question is not “Why would a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?” The question is “What is God doing for sinful people as He rescues them through the circumstances of bad things?”
I come again and again to the question: Do I need Jesus? Am I sick and sinful? Or have I deluded myself into thinking I’m well and righteous without him? By His grace, God continues to show me my desperate need for His rescue, and assures me that He has rescued me through the incredible sacrifice of His Son.
Remember Paul’s prayer for us in Ephesians, a book full of grace proclamation:
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:14-21
To our great and gracious God be glory forever!
The Graciously Redeemed
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