Stories of Grace | This Side of September
“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.”
Years ago, I prayed: If you teach me, Lord, I would learn. Teach me to fear You, to love You.
When I prayed that, I hadn’t the faintest idea exactly what it would require for me to learn those things, and I probably still don’t. In my more foolish moments, sometimes I think I would have liked to retract that prayer, but I am so thankful that the Lord in His infinite goodness went ahead and answered it anyway.
Circumstances took place this past September that brought me along the hardest and loneliest path I have yet walked, resulting in great depths of depression. Coupled with my acutely self-aware, introspective, introverted self, things were hard, to say the least.
In my many lonely, bitter hours this year, the Lord Himself sat with me–sometimes I did not even recognize Him–and did some of the most painful and tender searching of my heart. I found out how confused I was: I confused discipline with condemnation, I confused God’s voice with my own, I confused Christ’s righteousness in me with the call to “work out [my] own salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12) among other things.
It was okay for me to be confused; it was good for me to learn the difference between all of those things. But it was not good for me to do it alone. In all my confusion and navel-gazing, I would not go to God for answers or comfort or assurance, determined I could find them all within myself if I just looked hard enough. But I only became more confused and despairing of my sin, all the while thinking God was unapproachable.
When I came to the end of all these roads I walked alone, God met me there every time. Through a mess of sermons, books, and conversations with some trusted friends, He bid some storms to cease in me. He helped me and He taught me, with all patience. I learned that, of course, Satan would do everything in his power to keep me from going to God. The good word Jesus had for me was a word I was looking for for a long time without even knowing it: self-forgetfulness. There was no assurance that I would gain from mere self-analysis, because I could always doubt its genuineness. My best moments of assurance were not when I was thinking about my assurance. As Frederick Buechner wrote, I was “too busy apologizing for my own unworthiness to notice” the loving face of the Lord, which had never turned away from me. It required the power of God to simply lift my head and see it.
I am thankful that God is God, and as a college student, I know very well that it makes the world of difference to have a good Teacher.
If you teach me, Lord, I would learn. Teach me to fear you, to love you.
Would you pray this again, Vanessa? Will you continue to pray for this? I hear the Lord ask me sometimes, this side of September.
Yes, Lord, yes.
My word of encouragement is to all, but directed especially toward those who, even in the church, feel silenced by uncertainty or shame:
First, go to God, look to Him, ask Him. He is big enough for any emotion, and give the devil no opportunity for a foothold, because there is nothing to be gained the more we delay going to God.
Second, seek all of the above with the Lord Himself and with community, too. One thing I learned especially this year was that Christ called me out of my loneliness to dwell in Himself, but also to dwell with the family He gave me.
Lastly, it is cause for rejoicing and thankfulness when the Lord brings us to the day when we can say, in our own voice, that the gospel is good news to us. Even on days when we cannot do the things required of us, things we know we should do but have not the strength to do them, He will continue to do good anyway. And if you can’t believe that, He will help our unbelief if we would but ask. He who does not lie has promised it.
“O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways…Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts. And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:1-3, 23-24
– Vanessa Lim, DCC Member
If you are a member with DCC and have a story of grace to share please email firstname.lastname@example.org.