There is Always a Light in the World
It is easy to look out at the world and despair. It seems that earthly reality is a never-ending miasma of war, destruction, hate and depredations of human rights. I am certainly as susceptible to this phenomenon as anyone. Yet, to constantly focus on the negative is not healthy, nor do I think this is what God wants for His children. Yes, we are to be realistic about the world as it is, and strive to move it, as best we can, toward the world as it should be. This does not mean that we cannot see some of the amazing beauty that is in our world all around us. If we only to stopped and looked at the natural beauty of God’s creation once in a while we would improve our outlook.
As cool as it is to contemplate nature it is better still to contemplate people treating people the way they should. We take natural beauty as a given, but human kindness is all too rare. So rare that we often begin to think it is altogether absent. This is when we need to search out visible signs of God’s Grace upon Grace in our fallen world.
Fortunately for us these signs are all around us if we look for it. Not everything is dark and dispiriting. There are so many who are quietly, yet ceaselessly living out their faith in all sorts of ways. There are many who are doing this without really realizing that they are being agents of visible grace. We as faithful followers of Jesus the Christ should know better than to exhibit “cheap grace”. This is the kind of “grace” that sees many of us say that we believe, yet we do not respond in any meaningful way. The stories of visible grace in our world should serve as both a reminder that there are those practicing real witness in response to God’s gifts, as well as serve as an incentive for us to try and do better. I am going to share just a few real stories that I have been privileged to know of that show what visible grace looks like in this fallen world.
Stories of Visible Grace
The first story comes from as prosaic a place as my local church. There is a ministry that I have been involved with for several years now. I became involved because my daughter served in this ministry as part of her confirmation process. In short, by complete accident. My wife and I attended “family game night” and then got hooked. The ministry is called Spirit Matters, and it is a social and fellowship ministry for special needs adults. There are a multitude of great programs for special needs youth, but these opportunities largely evaporate as these folks grow into their adult years, which is what makes this ministry so unique and so important.
The genesis of this ministry came from the plea of a faithful father seeking something for his adult, special needs son to do as an activity. It was born of the tireless faith of an amazing woman, our youth and family minister, who upon not finding a program geared for this man’s son, went and started one. It has been said there were 12 attendees at the first meeting, a bit prophetic I know but that’s the story and I am sticking with it. Since then it has grown to serve over 70+ clients every week between October and May.
There is nothing fancy about what we do, it is a simple thing done well. Essentially, we throw a party every week. At a fundamental level what we are doing is inviting people to a party that are too often not invited anywhere at all. It is really about giving them something to look forward to and as Christians we should all recognize the power of having something to look forward to. It would probably shock me to realize how many people at my home church are not aware of this ministry, but there it is-visible grace. To be a part of this is to literally feel the stress of this world be lifted off your shoulders and to have hope once again in what we can be.
The next story, an anecdote really, as I did not personally witness it, comes from a friend I have known since grade school. Her father, at the time 84 years old, and still practicing law, was on his way to an appointment when he was in a horrific car accident. Initially they though that they could save him. He was placed in an induced coma, in order to facilitate the treatment. Soon they discovered that they would not be able to save him after all. The internal damage, combined with his age was simply too great.
At this point they brought him out of the coma to tell him the prognosis. Apparently the youngish doctor was a bit distraught at not being able to offer a cure to this man, and was clearly feeling the strain of delivering what was essentially a death warrant. At this point the man, faced with his earthly demise, looked at the physician and stated calmly, “you gave it your best shot doc”. This is truly amazing! Faced with death this man saw that this doctor needed a word of sympathy. He needed to hear that he had done all that he could, and that it was all ok. Thus, this dying man gave this doctor a dose of visible grace and so uplifted all who have heard this story.
The third story I would like to share is from modern history, yet we see versions of this type of story in the news often (more about that below). This is the story of Corrie ten Boom, the author of The Hiding Place, later made into a film. This tells the story of her time in a concentration camp during WWII. She was Dutch, and she and her family were arrested for hiding Jews during the war. Her entire family was slaughtered in the camps, and she was the only survivor. She was 50 when she entered the camps, and it is an amazing thing that she survived herself. She then spent the remainder of her 91 years of life speaking and publicly forgiving the NAZIs who had slaughtered her family. Can you imagine such a thing! Well, we do not have to. This is not something shrouded in the mists of history that can be written off as fable. Her confessions and statements of forgiveness were made in the full light of history in the modern world. There are few public acts of visible grace more humbling than this. It is stories like this, and they are in the papers today, that remind us what real grace looks like, and it reminds us that we too can be practitioner of such grace, A light for us along an often-dark pathway.
Where Can We Find Such Grace?
In a word, everywhere. Read the papers, these stories are out there. There is in fact a web site that collects these news stories and makes them available. It is called The Forgiveness Project. Their goal is to make known stories of forgiveness from those who have been victims of crime and violence.
Along these same lines are other sites that provide stories of uplift and humans treating one another the way they should. The Good News Network is one. Human Progress is another. These are stories to lift you out of the bleakest of moods. Look for similar stories hidden in the news. Not simply the end of the newscast “feel good” story of the day (as good as those may be), but a deeper dive into awful events will reveal edifying stories of forgiveness and healing.
An excellent place to seek out visible grace is your own local church. Yes, GO TO CHURCH! You will likely be amazed at the stories of grace that emanate from such a place. You may find incredible ministry like Spirit Matters at my own church. Food pantries, Habitat for Humanity teams, visitation ministries are all likely going on right under your nose. This is the antidote for the miasma of despair that too often courses through our lives. Much has been made of the idea of “self-care”. The best way to self-care is to care for someone else. Find, witness and ultimately imitate visible grace. Don’t let cheap grace invade our lives, by seeking out and practicing visible grace we will be made whole, as only one can in response to God’s gifts of salvation. You will see such visible grace and want to exclaim There He Is! Christ is in our world, and we can see Him in it, if only we open our eyes, ears and hearts. I’ve said it before, so it seems time to say it now, if we believe, we will obey.
Praise Be to God