If you research some of the online definitions of grace you come across words like favor, goodwill, love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, charity, etc. This post has been swirling around in my mind for months. It seemed fitting to finally put it down ‘on paper’ so to speak on the final day of 2014. You see, on multiple occasions people have asked me how I would describe the past year or so. Every time I reply, “I have been surprised by grace…over and over again.”
We went into the year 2014 with numerous challenges surrounding us that ranged quite literally from life to death. It would be impossible to even write them all down. I initially faced each challenge with one over arching emotion: fear. Fear I would not rise to the challenge. Fear those I loved would struggle through the challenges. Fear I would not be able to face what life might be like after the challenge. Mostly, fear of the reactions of others as we lived through the various challenges. On every front, I was quite literally forced out of fear and into thanksgiving as over and over God and his children surprised me by grace.
I was surprised by grace as God whispered to me repeatedly, “I have not given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound mind.” God surprised me by grace as he demonstrated his unmerited love, unending joy, unfathomable peace and complete acceptance.
I was surprised by grace as friends and family encouraged, affirmed, helped and loved rather than criticized, rejected, or judged.
I was surprised by grace as colleagues both current and former offered their support and continued faith in us even as we let some things slide in order to take care of whatever crisis or challenge was before us.
I was surprised by grace as churches that are dear to us went above and beyond to do whatever could be done to provide for us, support the ministry God has given us, and loved on our family in grief as well as times of joy.
I was surprised by grace as my children and their spouse/fiancé worked through the test of miles of separation from us and permitted us to be involved in their lives and offer our love and support as they worked through a variety of challenges.
I was surprised by grace as I returned to Texas and later returned to South Carolina for vacation and was constantly greeted with, “Yay! You’re back! We missed you!”
I was surprised by grace as God brought into our lives people who were in the midst of their own trials and permitted us to love on them and be family to them. I was surprised by grace every time someone called for “Mum Nell.”
I was surprised by grace as God brought to us beautiful amazing people seeking to know more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I was surprised by grace as I watched their lives transform and as they became part of our family.
I suppose the question I ask myself on this New Year’s Eve is “Why was I so surprised?” I think of myself as a fairly positive person. Why was I so shocked that God’s children acted like God’s children? To be sure there have been those who have not been very nice or have frowned or have walked away. But they are very few. So 2014, thank you for surprising me. 2015, I hope for more surprises, but mostly I pray that I surprise others and that I am transformed by the challenges and grace of 2014.