It was dark out as I walked to my car. There was a vague hint of morning light teasing the eastern horizon, but it was obvious that the darkness still out-shined the light. This is how most of my mornings start as I get in my car to drive to work. This particular morning, though, something changed in me.
You see, grace had been on my mind lately. What is grace? What is it to me? How has it affected my life personally? How has the undeserved – and often times unrecognized – favor of God countered the ripples that course from the center of my sin-diseased self and threaten every aspect of my life?
Unless you really sit down and meditate on it, grace can be quite an ethereal concept. As believers, we talk about grace all the time. We sing about how amazing it is. And yet, even we believers tend to forget about grace when we encounter turmoil and strife. Why is there this disconnect between the grace that we sing and read about and the opportunities in our lives to witness it in action?
What is grace? What is it to me? How has it affected my life personally? How has the undeserved – and often times unrecognized – favor of God countered the ripples that course from the center of my sin-diseased self and threaten every aspect of my life?
As I was driving down I-75 on my way to work, these were some of the thoughts that were going through my head. I began to take in my surroundings (always a good thing to do when you’re driving). It had been about 10 minutes since I’d begun driving, and light was beginning to seep over the horizon. I looked up at the sky. I saw the moon – a small crescent at this point in the month. I saw the remnants of stars about to be made invisible by our star. The clouds seemed to stand still. It all looked so picturesque, as if I were staring at a painting above a warmly lit fireplace.
Then, it occurred to me – this is not a painting. It seems to be quite a trivial observation, doesn’t it? But, as I looked at everything again, reality began to take shape. I saw the moon, in its entirety, with most of it being hidden by a shadow. I saw, with the sun behind the earth, where that shadow was coming from. I saw how beams of light were escaping the horizon at an angle to where they reflected brilliant oranges and reds across the edges of the clouds. I saw the fading, twinkling of the few remaining stars, and took into account the vast distance their light had to travel for me to see it.
In a word, I began to see depth. And oh, how much more could I marvel at creation with this depth in mind! To see how God has placed everything in creation in its appointed place. To better understand the relation between the sun, the moon, the earth, and the stars. To see how God created light to reflect, and how that reflection of light creates the beauty of a sunrise that could never be fully captured in a painting. As I began to understand and take in to account the depths of creation, everything around me took on so much more meaning.
It was one thing to see something as a 2-dimensional painting. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but to see with our own eyes that which a painting is attempting to depict…there are simply not enough words. When that 3rd dimension of depth is brought in, meaning can be found where before we could only guess was occupied by a void. At no other time had the words of the Psalmist rung truer in my heart:
“The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
This deeper understanding of creation truly reminded me of the glory of God. And it brought God all the more glory as I marveled at His handiwork. How great is our God! If a painting of the heavens is worth a thousand words, and the heavens themselves declare the glory of God, how great must this glory be! How could I not see that glory, and praise Him all the more?
It was at that moment, that God spoke a new light into my soul.
Grace is the 3rd dimension.
Even pain finds meaning through grace.
Here’s what I mean by that.
A life that is void of grace is a life that is flat. There is no depth behind the pain to see the meaning behind it. There is no hope of understanding. It is merely a painting, an imitation of true life.
But oh, that glorious moment when our eyes are opened, and the acknowledgment of ever-present grace floods our souls! Life is no longer a dead, flat painting, for grace has brought depth where there was once no realization that there could be anything at all! Even pain finds meaning through grace. We can see this concept in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Paul did not see the meaning behind his affliction. It was when the Lord opened his eyes to see the depths of grace behind the thorn in his flesh that he understood its purpose. How glorious that moment must have been for Paul, when he saw the grace behind his affliction, when he saw Christ working through it! There is such potential for light to be cast onto darkness when we see grace at work in us! Look at Paul’s response to seeing this grace: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me….For when I am weak, then I am strong.” What a liberating revelation that must have been for him!
There was not a point in time when grace reached so deep as when the hands and feet of my Savior were pierced for my transgressions. In that moment, the depths of my sin were laid low, and this victorious grace reigned. There is no greater meaning given to life than that which was given in that display of grace.
Dear Christians, this same truth is so relevant to us today: His grace is sufficient for us! I urge you, brothers and sisters, look for the grace! In it, you will find a depth and meaning to your suffering that you never imagined could have been there!
As I continued my drive that morning, I watched as the sun pierced through the darkness. And as day broke in my heart, and this gracious light poured in, I began to see so much more clearly how grace has affected me personally. There arose within me a depth that I had not known existed before that moment. I began to look back and see all the moments in my life when grace was present, though I had not seen it at the time. The depth and meaning brought to those experiences was overwhelming. And just as the Psalmist wrote all those years ago, I saw how God had declared His glory in my life, in each of those moments when He brought depth and meaning where before there was only despair and hopelessness.
And I was reminded of a particular moment when this grace reached a pinnacle depth. There was not a point in time when grace reached so deep as when the hands and feet of my Savior were pierced for my transgressions. In that moment, the depths of my sin were laid low, and this victorious grace reigned. There is no greater meaning given to life than that which was given in that display of grace.
And because of this amazing grace, I can again proclaim – Yours is the glory!
I haven’t looked at a sunrise the same since that morning.