Funny little Jungle House bird - Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Unmerited

I’ve been thinking about grace a lot in the last few weeks, ever since I had the wreck. I’ve been driving since I was fifteen; I’ve been driving by myself since I was sixteen. And the only wrecks I’ve ever had were caused by someone else. So this is a new experience for me: dealing with the guilt of being one who caused it. I’m just so thankful that no one was hurt; if someone had died or even been sent to the hospital, I don’t know how I could have lived with myself.

What continually amazed me that entire day was how kind everyone was. The officer who responded was outside her jurisdiction. The poor lady had just been going to buy turtlenecks, and she was closest. Turns out that the intersection of Central and Broadway is one of the ones everybody argues over as far as jurisdictional issues, and it might have taken longer to get someone else there otherwise. But she stopped. And she was wonderful. Not only efficient but funny. She stayed with us until everything was sorted out.

Then, the insurance people I dealt with were kind. Understanding. Reassuring. And insurance people don’t have to be that way. But mine were.

And the big kicker is that the local car dealership in my town was willing to let me borrow a new car off their lot to drive without rent until I bought another car. Granted, they knew I would be buying that car from them, but that still didn’t mean they had to let me borrow a car without charging me.

And my parents? They had the right to be angrier at me than anyone, but they weren’t. They both showed up, kept the situation light, and have been a constant source of support through the whole process.

I’d never experienced unmerited favor this way, where I had done something unforgivable and people were willing to let it go and be kind to me above and beyond what I deserved. At least, that’s what I thought at first … until I really thought about it. And in actuality, I experience this kind of unmerited favor on a daily basis.

Funny little Jungle House bird - Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Funny little Jungle House bird – Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Romans 5:8.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Do we get that? I’m not sure I did. I mean, I believe it 100%. I believe Christ died for me. I believe He paid the price for my sins to allow me to have a one-on-one, face-to-face relationship with God Himself. I believe that God has adopted me into His family through Christ’s sacrifice.

But what this entire ordeal has taught me is that there’s a big difference between accepting Christ and accepting grace.

Maybe this isn’t a revolutionary concept to anyone else, but I’ve never had a moment in my life where I’ve screwed up so badly. I cheated on a test or two in high school. I lied some. I lost my temper, had rebellious thoughts, disobeyed. But not like this. And to come face to face with my own fallibility has thrown me for a loop, not that I thought I was the best person in the world but that I’d always been able to walk away from sin, generally speaking.

But this? This was my fault. And I can’t shift blame or point fingers anywhere else. It was my responsibility to be a good driver, and I was careless. And three people were inconvenienced because of it–one truck driver and two ladies in a Honda. Yeah, fortunately no one was hurt, but I’ve been on the receiving end of enough careless drivers to know the frustration and anger you go through.

What I had to learn to wrap my head around throughout that whole day was that, yes, I screwed up, but people still cared about me. I had done wrong, but that didn’t mean that people were going to drop me or shun me. I think what the whole ordeal has shown me is an actual physical, personal example of what Christ has done for me.

When I screwed up (not even maliciously; more unwittingly than anything else), He loved me enough to sacrifice Himself so I could have life. And I didn’t deserve it. I couldn’t even pay for it. I couldn’t give Him anything in return, just tell Him that I’m sorry and trust that He was going to take care of it. And He did.

I think I had begun to take today’s verse for granted, kind of like I took my driving record for granted. I was a good driver. I hadn’t caused any wrecks ever, so why worry about running a red light? Surely that could never happen to someone like me. Kind of like my Christian walk. I’m a good person. I knew I couldn’t do anything to earn my salvation but I’d never done anything “bad enough” to cause me to question it. Not really.

Well … lesson learned. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to run a red light again any time soon because I’ll never forget what it felt like to see how kindly people were treating me when I absolutely didn’t deserve it. Just like Christ did.

Are you afraid of the dark?

When was the last time you were afraid? And I don’t mean just concerned about something. I live in an old house that makes all sorts of fascinating noises that my imagination can run wild with, whether I’m imagining that there are strangers walking around downstairs or I’m imagining that my water heater has blown up and flooded the whole basement. I’m not really afraid of either of those things happening, but living where I live and how I live, it’s something that could happen.

But the last time I was really afraid?

I don’t really know. I honestly don’t scare very easily. Maybe it’s silly, but one of the times I remember being the most afraid was when I had been cast in a skit for church. It was a tiny, tiny part. All I had to do was talk on an I-phone and be snotty. It was a cute part. A funny part that made people laugh. It was short, and it was even something I wrote. But the idea of going out on stage in front of all those people absolutely petrified me. It scared me to the point of nausea.

The only other experience I can even compare it to is learning how to drive again after my wreck. Trying to remember how to handle a vehicle going 70 miles per hour on a road you can’t control. Even though it’s been years, if I get behind a truck or van that has a ladder strapped (or not strapped well enough) to it, I can’t get around it fast enough. Maybe that’s a rational reaction, but my getting around it is usually motivated more by fear than common sense.

This is what I thought about when I read the verse for today.

2 Timothy 1:7

7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Fear has nothing to do with God. At least, not this kind of fear. The kind of fear that this verse is talking about is the kind of fear I have experienced in many circumstances when I was afraid of what I couldn’t control. And that’s not of God.

When we become followers of Christ, God gives us power, whether it’s strength or patience or endurance or the ability to love people who don’t love us back. That’s what this verse says. He gives us all those things, but He does not give us a reason to be afraid.

So why do we still fear?

Well, we’re human. So I guess that’s the biggest reason why most of us still live small lives in terror of the unknown. And I guess there’s nothing wrong with that if we want to live that way. But is it really what God has called us to?

That’s the danger with fear. It paralyzes you. It keeps you from doing the things God has asked–sometimes even commanded–us to do.

I haven’t got it figured out yet, and I still struggle with this. But I can tell you that fear really used to control me in the two situations I mentioned above. The driving thing I have mostly gotten over. There are still times when I see something in the road or see a truck driving with too much stuff in it that I remember the sound of crunching metal and the feel of the world jarring to a halt or the burst of white with the airbags inflating. But most of the time, I’m good.

What definitely controlled me without question was my stagefright. And looking back now, I know it was a pride issue, because I wanted to control my performance and be absolutely perfect and never make mistakes and I always felt I could never be good enough. But I let that fear force me to turn down a lot of roles because I didn’t want to get up in front of people. I still don’t like getting up in front of people, but I made a decision after that first role with the I-phone. I decided that I was going to let go and stop worrying about what I looked like onstage and what I sounded like onstage or whether or not I delivered my lines with mechanical precision, and I was just going to do my best and let God take care of it. So the next role I ended up playing was quite a good deal larger than the second role, and it was a much more powerful script, and it was a pretty difficult part (I had to play a blind person). But the really funny thing was that even though I was nervous (I wanted to do a good job), I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t really afraid. And every time I started feeling afraid, I told myself to stop it, I asked God to help me not be afraid anymore, and then I went out and did what I was supposed to do. And I guess it went all right. I know God used it, and that was all I really cared about.

I think a lot of times we expect fear to go away just because we face it.

Well, that’s not always the case. Sometimes that fear will pop it’s ugly head back up and we’ll have to face it all over again. But that’s what real courage is — action in spite of fear. And that is the sort of power that God has given us because we have confidence that He will do what He has said He’ll do.

So the next time you’re afraid of something irrational (not something you really should be afraid of, mind you; fear of some things can be healthy), try to look at it from God’s perspective and see how small it really is. Then make your decision on whether to act or not.

What are you afraid of? And how is that stopping you from doing what God has called you to do? If God is big enough to create the universe, to create everything we can see and everything we can’t see, don’t you think He’s big enough to help you when you need Him? It’s something I forget all the time, but I know, for me, it’s time that I remembered. How about you?