Grasping Grace, an Excerpt

I was seventeen when I faced the most difficult decision of my life. At the time, I justified it as my only option.

Curled up on my bed, in what had once been my safe haven, I squeezed my eyes tight, holding back a flood of tears. I gasped for air and shuddered at the thought of telling my parents.

The scene played out in my mind over and over. Shaking and trembling, unable to look either of them in the eye, I would force the words “Mom, Dad, I was raped and I’m pregnant.” Dad’s cheerful grin would disappear. Mom would give me the silent stare that said it was all my fault.

Escape plan

With each passing day, I wasn’t getting any less pregnant. I had to do something. But what? I had my whole life ahead of me. I had college plans and a career, which didn’t mesh with becoming a teenage mom. College was going to be my escape from my crummy hometown.

Getting pregnant was a bit like the run on the Bailey Savings and Loan that kept poor George Bailey from getting out of Bedford Falls in It’s a Wonderful Life. Only I didn’t stay and save the town from Potter. I took the money and ran.


The Rest of the Story

This is my story. Well, one of my stories. I, just like you, am made up of many stories. To read the rest of this story, see the full article “Grasping Grace” on Now What?, the online magazine of Bible Advocate Magazine.

I Came to Love You Late [Regrets]

regret

Regrets are a funny thing.

You really start to gather them when you get into your fifties. They are a bit sticky, once you have them, they’re hard to get rid of— (kind of like dog hair on a nice jacket.) I’m 61 now and am surprised by the memories of things gone by. I guess this is one of the job hazards of getting old.

Why do we remember the bad things– surely they weren’t all mistakes?

God’s Word gives us fresh insight into this state of mind of regretfulness. What it gives is akin to instructions to disarm a bomb— it’s ticking, and ready to explode. There are some who have been severely wounded when a regret goes off. Out of the blue–whammo!

But what really bothers me is all of the missed opportunities.

I wonder what life could have been like if I had accepted Christ at a younger age. A lot of pain would’ve been averted and perhaps I might have loved Jesus deeper than I do now. Some of us come to love Jesus late in life. There is so much time frittered away.

I regret the years spent in rebellion and disobedience. I remember the words of a 70-year-old man who had just received Christ, “Why did I wait so long for this to happen?”

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

Philippians 3:13-14, NLT

Paul learned to adjust his vision. He no longer let regret define him, choosing rather forget the past and press into the future. The solution to regret is to focus on what lies ahead. Heaven is our destination–it is our calling, it’s really where we belong.

And Peter tells us that our past sin was enough. We have wasted enough time doing evil. I don’t know about you, but I had a bellyful of sin, and it’s time to lay all the foolishness and rebellion and live instead for God. Enough is enough.

3 “You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.”

1 Peter 4:3

There is a sorrow that leads us to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10), and since it affects me I should make full use of it— not knowing when it will leave. I have regrets like anyone else, but there is also the joy of having my sin forgiven. They both mingle and at times I rejoice, but the sadness comes and goes as well. David, that great sinner-king, understood the joy of forgiveness.

Oh, what joy for those
    whose disobedience is forgiven,
    whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what joy for those
    whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
    whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

Psalm 32:1-2

“Maturity comes from obedience, not necessarily from age.”

    Leonard Ravenhill

Number Them

 

          “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” –ESV

 
“Teach us how short our lives  really are so that we may be wise.” –NLT

 “Oh! Teach us to live well!
      Teach us to live wisely and well!”– MSG 

Psalm 90:12, three different translations

Growing up we must learn different things.

We’re taught the alphabet, how to brush our teeth and use deodorant.  We need to be educated, or tutored into many different skills.  Our teachers direct and guide us, they provide for us an understanding of the skills we need to acquire.  As we advance through their instruction, we grow in proficiency.

The Psalmist comes to the realization that he needs to develop a particular skill.  He desperately wants to craft his life to be honorable and obedient.  He turns to God and seeks His aid.  The psalmist seeks a ‘teacher’ who will instruct him.

Our own lives are often chaotic and foolish. 

We live in a great deal of ignorance, strained relationships and bad decisions.  Most definitely we are ‘saved by faith,’ but the course of our lives can still be difficult. There is much to be learned in the spiritual world. We’ll make many mistakes.

The author of Psalm 90 doesn’t want to continue doing stupid things.  He has a need, and he is pretty adamant that God will help him.  Part of what he understands is that he needs to get ahold of the reality of the ‘shortness’ of his life. That’s a good start.

He must understand that he has a limited lifespan–an expiration date. 

He refuses the deception that life will just always continue unfolding.  He doesn’t buy it.  He counts on God to pace him, and to keep him from recklessly wasting his life.  He is asking for restraints. He must learn to say “no” and say “yes” to many things.

I encourage you to consciously make this step.  Be deliberate in this.  If we lack wisdom, we need to ask Him for it.  Apart from His presence, our lives grow increasingly irrational.  Living without restraints will lead us into more foolishness and despair. We must learn to say “no.”

“Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

Ephesians 5:16, ESV

 

‘Sunning Ourselves in the Smiles of God’

kites

A boy stood on a windy hillside, flying a kite.

He continued to release the string of the kite and it went higher and higher until it was completely out of sight. One of his friends walked up and asked how he knew there was still a kite on the other end. He replied. “I know it’s there, I can feel it tugging on the line.”

Like the kite, we can’t see heaven with our eyes, but we can feel it tugging at our souls!

As a person with a mental illness, it’s easier in some ways to think about that place I am journeying to.  Through many cycles of depression I find this present life gets old, and the more I hear about heaven, the more excited I get.  I imagine a life without meds, and the constant monitoring of my moods. This place is going to be good, and that’s just the start!

 Heaven is described as:

  1. a great reward, Col 3:24
  2. present suffering not worthy to be compared with future glory, Rom 8:18 
  3. eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 2 Cor 4:17-18
  4. surpassing riches of His grace towards us, Eph 2:7
  5. beyond all we could ask for or even think, Eph 3:20
  6. a complete and total healing, Rev 21:3-4

I sometimes think of my infirmities and pain.  I can’t wait to “shed” this mental illness. 

To be free from it will be one of best things I can think of.  To take off my depression, like a heavy coat on a warm day. To sit with Jesus in a cool garden with living water, that’s more refreshing than any iced tea. Eternity is my favorite things to think about–

“Where the unveile’d glories of the Deity shall beat full upon us, and we forever sun ourselves in the smiles of God.

—Ezekiel Hopkins 

I want to encourage you who are struggling now, with depression, anger,  schizophrenia, paranoia, abuse, OCD, addictions, PTSD, bipolar or any other handicap. There is a day coming, when we will forget the challenging battles that we’ve had to face. Wait for it.

And I must tell you, with all the strength I can muster–take hope and just journey one more day, and go ahead, dream about heaven.

Love, Bryan

 

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