I saved this last thing I’ve learned for the end. I wanted to post this on my birthday because it is probably the greatest truth I have learned and witnessed in my life. It encompasses many of the things I have already written about in this series. It speaks of why this blog is named what it is. (Note: At the time, my blog was named A Gracious Home.) It is a statement you have probably heard or even said many times before so it is not original with me. But I do feel as though I have experienced it in significant ways over the past forty years.
40. There but for the grace of God go I.
This quote is attributed to John Bradford during the Reformation. From what I can gather, he said this as he watched a martyr being led to the stake.
I haven’t experienced anything close to what John Bradford witnessed. But I have seen time and time again the evidence of God’s grace in my life whether through my salvation, a protective hand, a restraining hand, a generous hand, or a disciplining hand. God’s gracious hand is evident throughout my life. I cannot look back over my life and see a time He was not actively working, even when it seemed He was not.
I can think of several stories to tell that tie in closely with this. One of the most profound happened a number of years ago. I had been to a get together and while there I was overwhelmed by the futility of the lives most of the people were living. The tremendous amount of spiritual lostness, brokenness, destruction, hopelessness, addiction, and other destructive behaviors was overwhelming. I literally could barely keep myself emotionally in check while I was there because I was so overcome by the emotions God was allowing me to experience. To be so overwhelmed by the brokenness of others is not how I normally react to a situation like this. I do not have the spiritual gift of mercy. In fact, my gifts are more on the opposite end of the spectrum. But this time God allowed me to glimpse something on a much deeper level.
I had a long ride home and I think I sobbed most of the way. It is a miracle I didn’t get in an accident. My heart was broken for those people. And my heart was overwhelmed with – Why me, God? Why am I so blessed and these people are so lost? Why have I been given so much and these people are on the wide road of destruction? I was overcome by the enormity of God’s grace in my life and the realization that if it were not for God intervening in my life, there was no reason to think that I would have turned out any differently than those people.
I can think of so many circumstances that could have turned out so differently if it were not for God’s grace. Situations I was in, choices I made, desires I had… They all could have led to a much less fruitful life (in the best case scenario) or my utter destruction.
I do not know why God has chosen me and I have been blessed with His favor and salvation. I do not know why I have been lavished with His grace and others have not. But I do know that God has chosen me, protected me, guided me, and saved me. I was dead in my trespasses and sin. Dead. And He chose me before the foundations of the world. He made me alive in Christ. And even before I was spiritually alive, He was overseeing everything related to me, guiding and protecting me into a grace-filled life.
I’ve thought about this topic lately because, of all things, the news about Anna Nicole Smith and Brittney Spears. The reason I have felt drawn to those stories is because each of us has a baby the same age. Caroline and the two celebrity babies are all just about the same age. I’ve thought about Anna Nicole’s little girl and what an incredibly messed up life she is already experiencing at just five months. I’ve thought about the same thing for Brittney’s little boy. Why? Why was Caroline born into a loving Christian home and these two little ones were not? Why have the boundary lines fallen in pleasant places for me and these other two women have been racing down the road of destruction?
I realize asking these questions will make some of my readers uncomfortable. They make me uncomfortable. They are uncomfortable because they force us to face facts about God, ourselves, and salvation that we don’t want to look at. We don’t want to think about the fact that we would be on the road to hell if it were not for God’s grace. But that is what the Bible teaches. Yes, there is a human element in salvation. We are not robots. But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if it weren’t for God’s grace in my life, I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this testimony. I have the same depths of sin in me as Anna Nicole and Brittney. God’s grace is what has set me apart, called me out, and given me a life worth living. A life worth living now and a life worth living for all eternity.
See all of the posts in this series:
- 40 Things I’ve Learned By Age 40 – #1-7
- 40 Things I’ve Learned By Age 40 – #8-15
- 40 Things I’ve Learned By Age 40 – #16-19
- 40 Things I’ve Learned By Age 40 – #20
- 40 Things I’ve Learned By Age 40 – #21-30
- 40 Things I’ve Learned By Age 40 – #31-39
- 40 Things I’ve Learned By Age 40 – #40
A great end to a great series. Thanks Sallie! And happy birthday!! 🙂
Happy Birthday Sallie! I hope you have a wonderful day! I know that I am blessed by your life!
One of the best posts you have ever written. It is by God’s grace! I have wondered the same about my family. How could I be saved while the rest of my family seems to be wandering aimlessly. We all had the same opportunity. It’s humbling.
Thank you for sharing these thoughts Sallie…I think it reminds us all that we should thank God for the blessings in our own lives and pray for others (like those babies) every day.
Excellent post! I hope you have a wonderful birthday!
There’s a great true story about a little boy without legs and arms in an orphanage. He got really mean and would use his body to roll other children over. A nice man and woman decided to adopt him and through their love he changed into an incredible human being. Who gets the glory? The parents! God gets all the glory….we get none. It has nothing to do with us and everything to do with God. He loved us, He chose us and made us new creatures. Praise the Lord!
Thanks for sharing these posts, Sally. I hope you have a very happy Birthday.
First I want to wish you a very happy birthday. I hope you have a lovely day.
Second, I think your questions are right on. Why do some children have to be put in situations that aren’t always the best they can be? My thought is that perhaps all of our difficulties in life prepare us to fully recognize the goodness of God. Our sadness and despair can lead us closer to God but it is a decision that we make…and for me that’s the main point. I believe Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter has a chance for a healthy, productive life too as long as she chooses to hear God’s word and live it. The Holy Spirit can work in any life, regardless of who the parents are or what the situation is.
I add my birthday wishes. I am overwhelmed with emotion from reading your post, and also when I think about why God chose me. I can hardly sing certain songs in church including Amazing Grace because I feel it so deeply – even though I was raised in a Christian home and came to know Jesus at a young age – I am still a sinner saved by grace and grace alone. I was lost. I am now found. Hallelujah!
Lindsey @ enjoythejourney
I often wonder the same questions Sallie. Why was I chosen to live a life of pretty much ease in America, land of the free? Why did I get the “luxury” of having a christian home? Why am I so blessed and others can’t even get enough water to survive?
I don’t know the answer, but I know the God who does hold all the answers, and that is enough for me.
Happy birthday dear Sallie!
I loved this series. Thanks so much for writing it up.
I have been very interested and saddened by the Britney Spears story. She is my age exactly and we both have boys the same age, but such different lives. I feel so bad for Smith’s baby, too.
Happy Birthday, Sallie! Thank you for a very meaningful series, I have really enjoyed your thoughtful writing.
My youngest child (of four) shares your birthday and turns 9 today. It is hard to believe.
Happiest wishes for a wonderful year,
Happy Birthday, Sallie!
Such a beautiful post. It was like a gift to me. I needed to remember those things today.
Happy Birthday Sallie, beautiful post. Thanks for sharing. It reminds me of a song we sing in church sometimes,
I don’t know why Jesus loves me,
I don’t know why he cares,
I don’t know why he sacrificed his life
oh but I’m glad, so glad he did.
All I can say is Amen and Amen again!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY! 🙂 Hope it’s a great one and thanks for sharing all those life lessons with us. Wow, just think how much you’ll have learnt by 80. 😀