Saturday, May 3, 2014

sweet grace...

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. 

That saved a wretch like me


Spring appeared to bid us farewell as we packed up the bus and prepared to take off.
The last of the girls trickled onto the bus and took their seats.
For six long months I had kept our location a secret, and for all six months the team had been pushing me to spill the beans.

Some people might voluntarily sign up to spend their spring break doing disaster relief work.
But, few would put all their control aside to sign up, and raise money for a mystery trip in which they don't know any other details.
No location, no weather forecasts, no schedule, no expectations.
Just a packing list and a promise for the trip to be focused on service and spiritual retreat.

And, yet, amidst the odds, the bus was now packed with thirteen women-all tattered and worn from a stressful midterm week combined with preparing for a trip to who-knows-where.
Thirteen women who looked like they needed a break, not a a week of service.
But here we all were, an unlikely bunch, ready to serve.

Thank God we were going to Florida.

I once was lost, but now I'm found.

Was blind, but now I see.


I didn't know what to expect.

I had never gone on a trip with a group of girls (much less led one!).
How did I get this job?
I had never been on a service trip...
Honestly....I felt like I had never really done that much "service" to begin with. 
I had never been to Florida.
Too cliche. My family had always preferred the more obscure, hipster vacation spots like Fayetteville, Arkansas. No joke. That was our spring break one year.  
I had never seen disaster situations.
Michigan's worst disaster was usually a major weather swing, some intense humidity, or maybe some heavy snow. Although one time, I distinctly remember feeling a small earthquake before school one morning. 

What had we all gotten ourselves in to?

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear

and grace my fears relieved 

How precious did that grace appear, 

the hour I first believed. 


Thankfully, Jesus is so good to us even when we are miserably unqualified.

What I lacked in ability and experience, I made up for in prayer. 
Not by my power, but by yours, Father....

There are few words I can think of that would accurately express how beautiful our trip was.
We served and we learned.
We gave and were given to.
We fixed and we messed up...and we fixed again.
We loved and were loved.
We worked hard and we breathed in the beautiful breath of rest.
We read, we watched, we spoke, we listened.
We waited on God, and it. was. wonderful.

But, the funny thing is: even in the beauty of it all, there are still struggles. There are still frustrations. Things are never perfect, never quite what you want or expect.

People are messy and complicated.
Sometimes they talk too much, or not at all.
Sometimes they're grumpy and they are demanding.
People are weird and say stupid things.
They can be annoying.
They complain and sometimes aren't flexible.
They fall short.

And sometimes, especially as an introverted, extroverted-wanna-be, I just get tired of people.
*gasp* did she really just say that? How rude..
It's true. As much as I'd like to be the loving saint that never gets worn out or tired, I. Am. Not.
Throughout the trip I found myself constantly wanting to fix all the little imperfections in the people around me- the ones we worked for, with, and alongside.

On one of the first days of our trip, Holy Spirit gently reminded me of a sermon from one of the most wise and profound pastors I have ever heard, Kris Vallotton.
It's about grace. 

Essentially he said something to the effect of this: as soon as I make a choice to do something I didn't think I could do, like loving someone I thought I couldn't love, grace comes in and makes it possible.

So, for the rest of the trip I had it in my mind that if I loved people the way they were, then God's sweet grace would become apparent to them and they would slowly begin to change, and it would be easier for me to love them. 
Seriously, that was my original take away from that. Who thinks that way?!

It wasn't until our trip home that God whacked me square in the face with the reality of that message. He is so good at gently humbling me and bringing me back to Him.

God's grace is for me. 

I am the wretch.

I am the one who can't fully love.
I am the one who holds unforgiveness and bitterness in my heart.
I am the one who is internally griping and complaining.
I am the one who is grumpy, messy and complicated.
I am the one in need of sweet grace...

They may in fact need God's grace to enable them to climb out of sin, but it is me who needs the grace of God in order to love them right where they are, mess and all, just like Jesus did.

And God's grace is enough for that.
Every last bit of it.

Sweet grace, how you've wrecked me....

My chains are gone

I've been set free

My God, my Savior has ransomed me

and like a flood, His mercy reigns

unending love, amazing grace...


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