Saturday, May 4, 2013

State of Grace

State of Grace- (Christian theology) A state of sanctification by God; the state of one who is under such divine influence

"There but for the grace of God go I." I've had this quote stuck in my head, just bouncing around there for the last few weeks.  I'm not sure what that means because I've never given the quote much thought before now, but maybe it's there for a reason? I didn't hear a song, read a novel, or watch a movie that included this famous quote, so as woo-woo as this sounds, I believe it was placed on my heart to teach me something. 

So...I did a little research with my trusty search engine.  That has got to be the lowest form of "research," don't you think?  I came upon this website and here's a bit of what it had to say. 

The origin of the quote, “There but for the grace of God go I,” is attributed to John  Bradford, but it is recorded as Bradford saying, “But for the grace of God there goes John Bradford.”

Apparently, this Bradford fellow was an English protestant minister who lived during Queen Mary of England's (Bloody Mary) reign.  Delightful woman!  She  has to be a runner up for "Most Neurotic and Insecure, not to mention Stark Raving Mad, Queen of England".  Oh, and she had major daddy issues.  You would too if your Dad was a serial wife killer. Mary's notoriety came from her habit of publicly executing anyone who openly rejected her Catholic faith...kind of takes all the fun out of free will.  

As the story goes, John Bradford was walking by a group of criminals being led to their death when he spoke, (probably under his breath) "But for the grace of God, there goes John Bradford," meaning, it is only by God's mercy and grace that I am not walking in their shoes.  Most of us cannot imagine living in such a fragile state of grace...that at any moment the worst could happen and the bottom could fall out.  For John Bradford and others like him, a stroll through the town square or attending a worship service was a reminder of his own mortality.  Little did John know when he spoke those words that he would one day be condemned and executed for openly preaching the gospel in Queen Mary's England. 

So what does that mean?  How am I supposed to wrap my brain around them apples?  I mean couldn't he have gone on to spread the gospel and NOT die?  Like have a happy life with a chubby wife, lots of babies, and die warm in his bed?  

In my heart, I think I know the answer.  I think that God's grace is sufficient and made new each day.  I think when John Bradford walked by those "criminals", he did not take a single breath for granted.  He saw them and knew that at any chosen time, that could be his fate, and he was immeasurably grateful for the grace, the mercy that God showed him in that moment.  

And, when he was the one being led, unjustly, to his death, I have to believe that God gave him the grace to withstand the fear, humiliation, and pain that he would have to face.  I believe that because I have so often heard stories, read books, and talked to people who knew incredible peace through unimaginable ordeals.  The strength and courage they felt, could only be explained by God's grace.  Have you ever looked at someone's life and thought, "I could never do that! How could I go on after that happened?!"  

But, somehow, we do.  We endure.  And so does our faith.  

It sort of makes me think of childbirth.  When I was in labor with my first daughter, nothing was progressing except for the agonizing contractions.  My labor had gone off the rails and I was ready to kick some ass!  None of the books or classes told me that you could be in labor for 34 hours.  There were so many moments when I cried and declared, "I can't do this anymore!  I'm DONE."  I think I even said, "God, why have you forsaken me?"  


Here's the crazy thing.  Just when you think you will die if you have to withstand one more second, something happens.  You start to get the hang of the breathing thing.  A friendlier nurse comes along with an icy beverage and a smile (or drugs!) You get to push.  And the awful ordeal is over.  

I think that's how God's grace works in times of pain or trouble.  He does not promise to take away the pain, or make the awfulness end sooner.  He just holds you up.  And when you think that things will never get better, that you just can't go on, he gives you rest and help.

I will leave you with a beautiful Psalm about His vigilance and help!

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore. 

Psalm 121, New International Version

1 comment:

  1. This is a powerful post. I can feel and hear your total trust in God. He will see you through whatever lies ahead. I love you Katie. Your in my heart and prayers everyday.