Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Re-Discovering Grace in Honduras

I spent a week in Honduras at the end of March.  My heart was broken countless times on that trip.  The first incident occurred shortly after arriving.  On the drive from the airport to the missionary retreat where we were staying, we peppered Valerie (our host and driver) with all sorts of questions regarding the people she and her husband serve, the issues they face, the obstacles to their work, et cetera.  In the course of that conversation, Valerie related the story of a local Honduran woman (I'll call her "Maria.").

"Maria" discovered a terrible truth about her husband....He was sexually abusing their two young daughters.  Maria approached a local missionary for help.  The missionary responded by taking Maria to the police department to file a report.  The husband was arrested and put in jail.....for one night.  The very next day, he was released, returned home, tied his wife to a chair, beat her within an inch of her life, and then forced her to watch as he performed despicable acts on her precious babies.  To this day, that man is in his home.  The police refuse to do anything.

Tears streamed down my face as I listened to Valerie share the truth of Maria's life.*  As the tears cascaded from my eyes, I was railing to God:  'God, where does that woman go?  Is there justice for her?  God, I accept that You are the "Ancient of Days," that You see every act of injustice and You will judge righteously.....if not in this life, then in the life to come.  But my heart wants "justice" for that husband now!  I think that surely in this case, Lord, You would not hold it against me if I took this man's life.  I'd be doing everyone, even You, a favor, right?  If he's murdered, then the "good guys" win, right?  God?'

I continued to wrestle with God in the days to come.  Finally, I stopped accusing and started listening.  The answer I got was, frankly, not what I wanted to hear!  God revealed to me HIS heart towards this "monster," this "child molester," this "abuser," this example of "depravity"............and the answer was love.  I didn't want to accept this answer!  Love?!?!  No, he deserves punishment, he deserves Hell, the lake of fire, agony and "gnashing of teeth."  He doesn't deserve love!

Slowly, the magnitude of God's response penetrated the hardness of my heart.  Tears again flowed freely at the rediscovery of grace....grace for the one who doesn't deserve it, grace for the object of my scorn and rage, grace for him even while he is still committing his crimes and flaunting it!  Oh, the depths of God's love!  There is truly nothing we can do to cause God to love us any more or any less!  He loves because He is love!  He loves because it's His nature, and He cannot deny His own nature!

The all-encompassing nature of God's grace was something my heart rebelled against at first (I silently screamed, 'not for this man! not for this situation!' ).  But when I let the truth of this sink in, I saw that it's good news!  Glorious news!  The John Wayne Gacys of this world are just as loved by Him as the Mother Teresas!  If that does not sit well in my soul at first, it is only  because I think of myself as better than "those people," better than the really wretched sinners!

"Oh, Father, forgive me for ever thinking that I would make a good God, sitting as judge over others.  I thank You that I am not God for surely "your ways are higher than my ways and your thoughts are higher than my thoughts."  I have been so stingy with your grace, lavishing it upon those I deem worthy of it.  I know the root of this gracelessness is centered in my forgetting how much I have been forgiven.  Keep me ever mindful of my position as undeserved recipient of Your unfathomable grace.  The vast riches of that grace defy words!  Then, cognizant of Your grace to me, empower me to extend Your grace to the people in my life, every. single. one.  Amen."

*I remember sitting in that van looking out the window at the beautiful mountains, marvelling at the glory of God so visibly on display in the stunning landscape that surrounded me, yet feeling the dichotomy of heaviness and oppression in the midst of this magnificence.  On the one hand, this small country in Central America is so blessed; God's fingerprints are apparent everywhere you look.  How I wish that was the whole story!  Unfortunately, there is a spiritual darkness that hangs over Honduras.  The third poorest country in Latin America, poverty wreaks havoc in far too many lives, in a way that is difficult for most North Americans to imagine.  (Can you imagine living on top of a massive pile of garbage, scouring through trash to find anything you can use or ingest just to stay alive one more day?  Can you imagine birthing a baby here where children fight vultures, cows and stray dogs for anything edible?  People who are made in the image of God and have inherent worth and dignity woven into their DNA are forced to live like animals!  Even if you've seen it with your own eyes, it's still extremely difficult to comprehend.  How can one reconcile that life in the dump of Tegucigalpa and life in the wealthy suburbs of Chicago both exist on the same planet?  It feels like a gigantic tear has occurred in the cosmos.)  The poverty affects all aspects of life and is a contributing factor in so many other social ills including corruption, crime, gangs, drugs, devastation following natural disasters, disease, the list just goes on and on.  I just remember the power of that moment, having my eyes opened to the dual realities and trying to somehow fit this new information into the world as I knew it......an impossible task.  Instead, this trip became a defining moment for me, forcing a paradigm shift.  I pray I never again return to what I once called "normal" but now see as ignorance.

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