Grudging Obedience and Extravagant Grace

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I almost threw the book against the wall.

I just couldn’t do what it was suggesting.

I wanted to ignore the words on the page, put the book back on the shelf, pretend I’d never read it. But I couldn’t. The words had caught me. And I knew somehow I needed to act on them.

The book was Francis Chan’s Crazy Love and it included this quote from Frederick Buechner. It was Buechner’s words that had stopped me in my tracks.

“The love for equals is a human thing–of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing–the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing–to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints. And then there is the love for the enemy–love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.” 

The words drew me in. Echoed in my head. They haunted me.

“This is God’s love. It conquers the world.”

I was going through a difficult trial. I had been deeply hurt and didn’t really know where to turn. I was angry, seethingly angry, and wasn’t sure what to do with all my emotion. I had begged God for deliverance, peace, grace. I didn’t want to be bitter. But here I was, in the midst of it all, feeling bitterness growing day by day. I didn’t know how to stop it.

I had picked up this book as a diversion. To take my mind off the situation before me. But it was doing just the opposite.

At first I wasn’t sure why the Buechner quote had arrested me. What was I supposed to do? Was I merely touched by its eloquence? Or was there something more?

So I prayed. I asked God for clarity. And He gave it.

It wasn’t what I expected. Or wanted. So I prayed again. And God gave me the same answer. Again.

I felt God was calling me to write a letter. That I didn’t want to write. For multiple reasons.

It seemed crazy to write anything to her. Someone whose actions had terribly wounded me. Who had turned my world upside down, and inside out, never to be righted again.

Not a letter. Not to her.  Not ever.

So I shoved the idea way, believing that it was too hard. God surely didn’t expect that of me. Hadn’t God put me through enough already?

Surely I had misheard Him.

But as I lay awake in bed that night, I knew that I hadn’t misheard. God was calling me to act. It didn’t need to make sense. I just needed to obey.

To trust God.

So I got up from bed and started writing. I sobbed as I wrote, but I just kept writing. I wrote about the gospel, about the free gift of Christ, about forgiveness. I felt God was guiding my words, His gift to me, since I had no words of my own.

I wrote all night until I was finished. I knew I had to do it right away, before I changed my mind. Or put it off for another day. A day that would probably never come.

As I was putting the letter in an envelope, I heard the song Unredeemed by Selah. That song was my new favorite; the lyrics felt as though they were written just for me.

I loved the words, “Life breaks and falls apart, but we know these are…places where Grace is….they may be unfulfilled, they may be unrestored, but when anything that’s shattered is laid before the Lord, just watch and see, it will not be unredeemed.”

That seemed like my story. Perhaps it was hers too. So I bought the CD and mailed the whole thing away.

I wondered how God was going to use it. I waited and prayed. Would I see fruit from it? I was anxious to find out.

I never heard back from her.

I have no idea what she thought. But I hadn’t asked for a response. Though I hoped to get one anyway.

My letter was written out of obedience. And truth be told, grudging obedience at first. I knew I would have no peace if I didn’t write it. I knew once God revealed His will to me, I had to follow through.

I wish I was a person who joyfully did whatever was before me. That I could set my face like flint and courageously accomplish hard tasks. And not grumble and complain all the while.

But I’m not like that. Not yet.

I am ashamed to admit how hard my heart was when I started. But by the time I dropped off my letter at the post office, something had changed. I was changed.

I prayed for weeks that God would use the letter. Prayed for her. Her walk with God.

Months later, I was thinking about the situation, wondering why God had called me to write. I didn’t think that the letter had had any impact at all. And yet it had cost me so much.

Then I realized my actions had made a huge difference.

But the difference was in me.

Writing the letter kept me from being bitter. From giving in to self-pity and destructive anger. From wanting revenge.

Through my obedience, God had enabled me to take the focus off myself, obsessing about how I had been wronged. And put my focus into prayer. And His grace, that changes everything.

This is God’s love. It conquers the world.

 

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