Stories of Grace | God Answers
“The Stories of Grace series is intended to capture snapshots of God’s grace and glory amidst our every day lives. They are real stories of real people who have seen the fingerprints of God amidst the ordinary—God’s favorite canvas. Each story is personal, unique and, often, unfinished. Through it all we get glimpses of God’s steadfast love, sufficient grace, and ongoing presence with his people.”
“I should use my time more for others.”
This half thought, half prayer flitted through my mind during my community’s discussion of this year’s earlier sermon about using our time. When I left community, the thought left my mind.
Exactly 24 hours later, I was sitting in my car with a distraught friend, assuring her she could stay with me as long as she needed. She’d called me sobbing, barely able to get words out, but I knew instinctively she needed to leave where she was. When I went to pick her up, she was standing on the sidewalk, a giant suitcase next to her. A relationship that had never been great had turned categorically abusive and manipulative.
Feelings of overwhelming inadequacy seeped into my mind as I listened to her pour out months of pent-up problems that had festered in this relationship. I’ve never been in her situation, I thought. How do I empathize, offer anything true or helpful? I’m not a counselor. I have no idea what to say. What do I do? My half-hearted prayer from the day before flashed through my mind. The feeling of inadequacy was immediately replaced by a certainty that God had received that prayer, chuckled a little, and opened wide the gates on a situation He had been carefully preparing.
Let me clarify one point about time: I love being alone. My routines and time to myself each day have always been vital to my well-being. Having an indefinitely-invited houseguest was not what I’d meant by using my time more for others. I’d vaguely pictured volunteering once a week for a couple hours, something I could comfortably leave when I wanted.
But then she moved in, and I knew she could not go back to where she’d been. During the next two and a half weeks, her tears were constant, her questions were staggering, and the lies she was fighting were so pervasive I almost didn’t believe God could transform them into truth.
Though she grew up in the church, her understanding of God’s love was distorted beyond recognition. One night, she described her conception of God. “He’s like an angry teacher,” she said, “waiting in the classroom to punish me because He knows I haven’t done my work and that I keep missing class. Things will only get worse if I go into the classroom, because He knows how far behind I am and what a negligent student I’ve been my whole life. I can’t face Him.”
Every time she articulated unworthiness, guilt, condemnation, self-loathing, and other hell-sent lies, I wanted to shake her and shout, – at the lies, not at her – “These things are not true of you! This is not love! This is not how God sees you!” There was a near-tangible darkness over her that I knew I was incapable of fixing. This didn’t require a mere shift in thinking – the Spirit of God needed to renew her mind and soul. The only solution I could offer was the powerful Word of God.
The next morning, I opened Isaiah and read this: “[The Lord] will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.”
I was stunned by God’s intimacy. As far as I know, this chapter is the only time in the Old Testament God is directly titled Teacher. I didn’t go looking for this verse; it was just up next in my daily reading. God wanted her to see and know a loving and pursuing Teacher, not a retributive one. And He wanted me to know that His word is sufficient truth for every situation, even the ones that seem layered in lies. I showed her the words, and from then on, we started reading the Bible together each day.
I know my initial reaction to those lies is only the faintest reflection of how God views our sin. With incisive clarity, I saw God looking at my sin as I was looking at my friend’s struggle. If I could feel devastated at the hold these lies had on her, it must be only a shadow of the way God feels when we choose sin over Him. But God’s grace is to keep gently pointing us back to Him as the only loving and good Teacher who can free us into truth.
In those weeks, God changed my ideas of what it means to serve Him with the time I like to think is mine. And as I relied on Him for wisdom, He moved in ways I had rarely experienced before. My confidence in the power of His Word grew with each conversation, as I begged the Spirit to use His words, not mine, to speak truth into the lies. Answers to problems I could not solve came directly from His Word. With that half-hearted prayer about my time, He reoriented the purpose of my days to bring healing to one of His beloved children, growth in my own faith, and glory to Himself.
– Elisabeth Schyberg, DCC Member
If you are a member with DCC and have a story of grace to share please email firstname.lastname@example.org.