Since becoming a saved Christian earlier this year, I have struggled with the phrase God’s grace. I tried to understand it and wanted very much to do so. Today, I have a clearer understanding of this most important phrase. I am getting ahead of myself. Let me explain where I was and where I came from to become saved.
As a seven month old baby, I was christened in the Lutheran church. I do not recall much of my early childhood. I do know I didn’t attend a lot of church services. The few I remember are the classic kids must be dressed as little adults and pay attention to the pastor who was preaching the sermon. I did not want to do those things. I wanted to talk, fidget and be a nuisance. I was always being told to stop and pay attention. I would physically stop, but I wandered around in the playgrounds of my mind. This kind of behavior continued until I became a teenager. Then as a family, we stopped attending church services altogether.
Somehow, some way during the approximately eight years I didn’t attend regular services, I had developed a strong sense of faith in God. I will probably never know where that faith came from, except I firmly believe it was God’s way of giving me something to cling to. It could have come from my having a physical handicap and growing up in a world where the weak were held in contempt. To top all of that, I was left handed in an extremely right handed world. I know now that my handicap was a true blessing from God. I didn’t think that way at the time. I often felt pity and shame for myself. I didn’t blame God, however. I couldn’t tie my shoelaces or ride a bicycle until I was about eleven. I could catch a football and catch and throw a baseball with my good left arm. I eventually learned to do everything a normal youngster could do with two hands with one hand. Here’s a simple test. Try to button one button on your shirt or blouse using one hand only. See. I had the same trouble, I couldn’t, but I was determined. I practiced buttoning my shirt until I could do it easily. I persevered. I endured and adapted. I improvised when doing tasks. I HAD to find a way to do the task at hand or suffer the humiliation of asking for help. All these things and many more strengthened my character and resolve. It turned me into who I am today. Little did I know, but it was God who was doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself.
I next attended a Presbyterian church in my early twenties. Even though I was attending church, I was a sinner. I was like the apostle Paul when he said in 1 Timothy 1:15… “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst.” (NIV) After six months or so, I abandoned church and turned to alcohol and drugs. Through more than two decades, I followed this path. Eventually, I quit the drugs and alcohol. Towards the end of my drinking career, I was praying regularly for a sign from God that He wanted me to stop my drinking and drugging. Finally in late September 1990, I got what I thought was the sign I had been praying for for so many years. I had an extremely painful pain in my right side. Fearing appendicitis, I went to the emergency room. I didn’t have appendicitis, but hepatitis C. I made a conscious decision to stop drinking and taking drugs. At the time, I was going regularly to a Pentecostal church. It was through that church I learned God doesn’t usually make people ill. It turned out He used the evil one to get what He wanted me to do.
When my wife died last December, I came to the realization I couldn’t remember if I had ever been baptized. My wife died on a Tuesday. The following Sunday I was attending my current church home. It was during the altar call that the Holy Spirit entered into me and I asked God for salvation. I delivered my wife’s eulogy the next day, a completely different person than what I was a few days earlier. During the days and weeks following that Sunday, I was baptized and came to understand God’s grace. Today, grace means to me that God showed favor upon me and gave me the salvation I sought and future blessing of being in heaven with my wife, Jesus and God.