One of the things I've discovered about grace is that it hardly ever comes in an expected way. Grace is ushered in on the wings of the unexpected....a blanket returned to a prisoner, a letter from a friend you've never met, a verse delivered by a stranger and meant just for you.
In my life, grace came to me in a complicated pregnancy. Bleeding, stuck on bedrest, terrified to lose this tiny life I had already fallen in love with, I felt desperate and hopeless. Having nowhere to go, no one to turn to, being completely out of control, I turned to God. And He met me. He removed the veil from my eyes, and as I read His Word, He made it come alive for me and enabled me to recognize it as truth. Grace came to me at one of the darkest moments of my life.
Grace came to me when my husband's anger left me shattered. It was our first weekend without kids in years, and I was planning a romantic trip down memory lane. I wanted to return to the place we fell in love.....revisit the site of that party and remember the night we met, stop at our first apartment together and relive the high hopes and dreams we had held for our future, return to Evelyn Chapel where we said our vows and embarked on the journey of man and wife and experience again the joy we had felt on the beautiful March day in 1996, see the hospital where our babies were born and reminisce about the sweetness of life with newborns, the wonder and awe we felt the first time we saw our love personified in another human being!
Instead, the weekend was ruled by my husband's anger which erupted in violence, and physical boundaries were crossed which should never be violated.
Violated is a good word for how I felt. How dare he! I was so angry, and truth be told, I was angry not just at my husband but at GOD! He could stop this! He could change that man's heart! Why didn't He intervene?!?!? Didn't He love me?!?!?!
I ran. I ran from my husband. I ran from my faith. I wanted to run as far away as possible and never stop running or look back. But where could I run to? Everywhere I went, God was there. Grace found me; even though I ran as fast as I could, grace ran faster.
How could I say that that night of violence and pain was grace? Because it ushered in the new. That night forced me to confront things I was much more comfortable denying. We had to reach that bottom to admit that we needed help.
Because of that night, I entered counseling. My counselor, Cindy, was grace to me. She listened, she validated, she challenged, but most importantly, she brought light and truth into my situation. Her words were life to me, and I began to come alive in ways I thought were impossibilities for me.
Because of that night, my husband and I enrolled in Marriage Matters. We connected with other couples like us and discovered that we weren't alone. Better yet, we were given tools to identify and change our unhealthy behavior patterns. For the first time in a long time, we saw a light at the end of the tunnel. Hope entered our world once again, in the knowledge that our future did not have to be defined by our past. Marriage Matters, and our table leaders, Bill and Scottie Godar, were grace to me.
That Saturday night in November was a night of shattering and breaking. I could see no good in what was so clearly an evil in our lives. The pain hurt more than I thought I could bear, and I screamed at the Heavens and I cried until there were no more tears left, and I even despaired of living. I remember walking late at night down pitch black trails, hoping someone was lying in wait to do me harm, praying for someone to end my misery....too cowardly to take my own life, but hoping that someone else would do me the favor.
But, that cold, dark, rainy, miserable November night that I thought was the end of everything was actually a beginning. I--we--our marriage had to shatter and break so that God could put us back together in a new way, His way, for our good and His glory! I praise God because He is bigger than our "messed-up-ness!" He has shown Himself mighty on our behalf! We were powerless to change our circumstances, but we invited Him into our storm, and He is bringing the peace that only He can bring.
This new peace is not a surface calm. For nearly fifteen years, I was willing to live with surface calm and believed that was the best I could hope for while all the while, dark forces were bubbling and boiling just below the surface. Now we have invited His light to shine into those deep, dark places inside of us. We are no longer pretending that depravity does not live in our hearts. In humility, we look straight into the Mirror of His Word, and it illuminates our hearts. Oftentimes, we don't like what we see there, but it brings us to our knees in confession and repentance, and He is so faithful to reach down and lift us up and give us His strength which enables us to do His will. We are asking for His Wisdom, and we can attest to the fact that James 1:5 is true....He is granting us His wisdom and empowering us to act on it.
Because of grace, I am so hopeful when I think about our future. I've learned so much in the past eight months. I know that God is leading us, and while I cannot see the final destination, I trust that the path we are on is leading somewhere good. I see our story as a small part of His greater, grander story. It's a story of redemption and restoration, and it brings me such joy to be able to add a chapter in the book of "The Greatness of Our God!" We are evidence of grace....our lives are evidence of the fact that God is still alive and working in this world! God is putting our broken pieces back together, and I just pray that the cracks and gaps that will always be reminders of our shattering are the very spaces that God uses to shine His light brilliantly through us and into a hurting world!
Praise Him! Praise Him! Praise Him! "Only God!" "ONLY GOD!!!"