“and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:8-10, NIV)
My grandfather used to say “there before the grace of God go I” during moments of tragedy, mourning or suffering. As a teenager and young adult, I would catch myself following the sentiment without realizing the weight behind the words I was reciting. There before the grace of God goes I, was how my grandfather spoke it, however the proper written statement is, ‘There but before the grace of God, go I – but still what does that mean, I asked myself one day.
Isn’t it ironic how we mimic what we hear growing up without analyzing the meaning behind it? I began to question the words, what they meant and what it was that I was repeating. Was my grandfather saying we were better than the homeless man sleeping in the bushes at the park, because we go to church? Was he saying that God loved us more than the people suffering in the car accident we just passed? Was he saying that if I don’t go to church and follow God that I too deserved to suffer? Until I read what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians – the power, love and meaning was lost on me.
Paul felt as though he was undeserving and admitted that if it were not for the grace of God, he would still be the same Paul who persecuted Christians. It is a verse of humility and love. My thankfulness is rooted in the same manner as Paul. It was only for God’s grace and who he created me to be that I am the mother, wife and person I am today. He created me with intent, purpose, a heart that loves more than ever received and a mind that dreams of God making my impossible, possible.
God knew I would follow my heart instead of listening to him at first. He saw ahead to the moments I would fail, resist his help or the help of anyone else. He knew I would disappoint both he and myself when I would surely proclaim the lie that I only needed myself. He would be patient as I took the lead foolishly thinking that I was alone, and in charge. He continued to pour his love into me even in the moments that I denounced his purpose and plan for my life. He used these moments in his infinite wisdom, in his pursuits and how he would reveal when the timing was right, that he was whom my strength originated. His Grace is love, and there will not be a day that I am not thankful for that.
We are so naïve in what we so blindly refuse to acknowledge is him. Looking back now I see his hand helping me up to my feet, his arms lifting me up and out of whatever mess I created this time. His love for me when I couldn’t stomach my own reflection let alone the idea of loving myself, was abundant and refreshing. If it weren’t for these moments, I would not have three teenagers that have shown me a love that I never knew was possible and test the patience in me at the same time. If it weren’t for his grace, I would not have a husband who chooses me every day, despite my past and makes me feel the same safety I do in trusting Jesus.
My life afforded by his grace is not a based on whether I go to church, it is not saying that I am more deserving than anyone else or that I will escape my own tragedies or hardships. It is saying that I won’t be alone in them. I’m thankful to be aware of that. To humbly admit that I need his grace, that I want his grace and that my strength, love and faith are deeply rooted in him, is a gift in and of itself.
We all falter, we all have moments of pause and question – and we all at one time in our lives have felt undeserving of God’s love and grace. That is what creates the humility and compassion in our hearts for one another. Imagine all that God has witnessed, imagine all the people he consoles as they suffer, all the ones who at times question his abilities, his intentions and even if he is real. Imagine that for one minute and then picture him loving them anyhow. Is there anything more beautiful than that? I don’t believe there is.
Thankfulness is a choice just as is love. It is an action word; it requires movement, it requires flexibility and an intentional heart. It is easy to get stuck in the ruts of life and take things, people and even God for granted. There are days when I wake up and all I can muster are the words, “I’m thankful I woke up today”, or “I’m thankful that my being alive today means I must still have work to do for you God, that I must have purpose.” Even if I have no idea what it is. I trust he will clue me in when his timing is right, and most likely when my mind and heart are still.
Today I encourage you to take deep breath and think of one thing or person you are thankful for. Something or someone who gives you the feeling of relief or that pleases you. Whether it be a simple as a baby sleeping through the night, enough money in your account to keep the power on, a spouse who decided to unload the dishwasher or a puppy who didn’t chew another hole in your brand new couch. Or something as significant as a lost son or daughter coming home, the blessing of a positive test result or clear scan saying that cancer is gone. Whatever it may be, whatever you can muster up in the pits of despair – speak it, feel it and choose to be actively thankful for it and know you are never alone or undeserving.