Tonight at Fitzroy we had a ‘meet the staff’ interview conducted by Paul Clark. Paul is an accomplished broadcaster and journalist who knows how to ask incisive questions. A master at work his interview was insightful, thought provoking, humorous and compassionate.
He wanted to avoid the clichéd or run of the mill interview with a group of church leaders and root it firmly in the real world. My colleagues were absolutely terrific! For my part of the interview he began by asking me how I was doing… a very simple question but it was the springboard to a series of questions that encouraged and enabled me to be vulnerable and share about what I had experienced with my health over the past five months. I'd collapsed in Prague at the end of March and spent several days in the hospital. Since then I keep having repeat episodes, they are random and unpredictable and I'm going through various tests to determine what is going on. Six months down the line, I'm learning to live with it as the mystery continues.
I ended with a comment that throughout all of this I was relearning the lesson that all is grace; in the midst of unknowns and uncertainties that grace is sufficient. You see grace is a wondrous thing. To quote a U2 song “Grace it’s the name for a girl, it’s also a thought that could change the world.” We gave all three of our girls the middle name ‘Grace’ because it is this amazing concept that changes everything. I used a movie clip and a couple of quotes to illustrate what grace is and what grace means to me. My life has been a witness to this amazing grace and indiscriminate compassion over the past few months.
Two of my favourite quotes about grace:
"The grace of God means something like this: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you.
There's only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you'll reach out and take it. Maybe just being able to reach out and take it is a gift too." Frederick Buechner
“My life is a witness to vulgar grace — a grace that amazes as it offends. A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wage as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five. A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party, no ifs, ands, or buts. A grace that raises bloodshot eyes to a dying thief’s request — “Please, remember me” — and assures him, “You bet!”…This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap. It’s free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try and find something or someone that it cannot cover. Grace is enough…” Brennan Manning
I’m also posting a few thoughts, (mostly remixed from previous blog posts) that I really wish I’d remembered to say in the course of the interview. Perhaps its a little more articulate than the live version was...
The unknown is often scary, right? But all is grace and grace is enough. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that all our problems disappear, far from it! I've had some dark days in the last few months. Here in my world some terrible things have happened, and yes some beautiful things too; like all the folks around the world who have been praying for me. The concern and love that so many people have lavished on me is humbling.
But these strange episodes keep happening to me and when they do it's scary. There are times when I've wondered when will this end? Will we get an answer, a diagnosis? Times when I've felt useless & unable to do the things I love & live to do (like youth ministry) as well as I used to, as well as I want to. Fear, worry, anxiety, these things are very real, but here is a depth charge of truth and wisdom from Corrie Ten Boom for anyone facing uncertain times... "Worry does not empty tomorrow of it's sorrow. It empties today of it's strength. Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God"
You see rational answers for the pain and suffering we experience don’t really provide comfort, but in the God of the Bible we have someone who can fully sympathise with us for he has greatly suffered. He may not remove our pain, and he certainly doesn’t cause it but what he does do is fill that pain with his presence. Throughout this whole scary experience with all its questions, unknowns and uncertainties I have been reminded of some important truths about our known God:
He is Conscious- This means He’s aware. Matt 6:8 states that our Heavenly Father knows what things we have need of even before we ask Him. Our known God is all knowing. We can trust Him, because He already knows everything about us and nothing that happens to us escapes his attention.
He is Concerned- 1 Peter 5:7 says cast (which means to throw) your cares, anxieties and worries on Him because He cares about you. Yes, He cares about us! Whatever concerns you concerns Him. So when we are faced with problems, situations and obstacles that seem insurmountable the word of God here reminds us that he can handle them.
He is Consistent- 1 Cor 1:9 states that God is faithful. He is faithful and we can also count on Him and trust Him to do exactly what He says He will do every single time. God will never let us down, we can always rely on Him.
He is Capable- Eph 3:20 say’s that God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think according to the power that He works in us. This would suggest to us that nothing is too hard for God. Even if He chooses not to grant our request, He’s still capable of supplying our every need. He is still with us, He has not changed and He is still working, even if we can't fully see it.
So what difference does this all make? Well Rich Mullins pretty much nailed it when he said:
“Tonight I’m going to say to you what the angels said to every character in the Bible that they encountered… They said, “Don’t be afraid.” We’ve got a little while to go yet in this life, and it’s a scary thing, but don’t be afraid. Be of good cheer. He has overcome the world. And he has chosen to dwell within us. And we ain’t that big a deal, but our Saviour is. He will walk with us through this life, and when it’s over, He will raise us up again and take us to be where he is. Not because of what we’ve done, but because of who He is. Because of the love he has for us.”
In the midst of our troubles there is an invitation to trust in the one who fills our pain with his presence and who brings comfort and hope. He walks with us through this life. He loves us. Yes, all is grace.