Grace

I had it all planned out. A quick phone call is all it would take. Sorry, I can’t make it for class this afternoon. It didn’t have to be any more than that. But of course I had to have the rationale settled in my mind. A busy weekend. Preparing for in-depth Bible study, a memorial service (and sermon) after that, and then of course Sunday morning sermon preparations. But I wouldn’t need to share any of that.

But for it to work I had to ignore the underlying motivations and challenges. This COVID situation has just worn me down. And half the time when I show up for class they aren’t responsive. They aren’t interested. They’re going through the motions. What difference does it make if I’m there to lead class or not? I don’t like those reasons as much. And in the end, I don’t make the call, and I show up for class at 12:30pm.

Yes, leading a Bible study/discussion class at a residential program for drug & alcohol recovery with a group of men directly after lunch. Motivation is about as high as you might expect. There’s at least one guy I can count on to have something he wants to talk about, something pertinent, Biblically based. But he leaves halfway through the class for one of his other counseling commitments. And then what?

Then he speaks up.

He’s probably been there a month. Maybe six weeks. Just starting. He hasn’t said anything, ever in class before. Sometimes he falls asleep. And hey, I’ve slept through more than my share of classes (as well as sermons) so I don’t take it personally but it is disheartening. But today he speaks. So quietly I can barely hear him. Jesus died for my sins. Christians say that but I don’t understand what it means.

The door opens for an exposition of all of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. The story of salvation and our place in it and the place of this man called Jesus of Nazareth who claimed to be nothing less than the incarnate Son of God, come to suffer and die on our behalf, in our place. His question was the perfect slow pitch and I cranked up and swung as hard as I could, connecting with that ball and trying to drive it out of the park.

And then he responds. Truly a miracle! I’ve never really heard any of this before. Never cared about it. Never needed it. It’s overwhelming. Yes, yes it is. You come to a program in hopes of recovery and change in your life, or maybe just to get off the streets for a while, or maybe to avoid a jail or prison sentence. You’ve heard about AA and the Twelve Steps but now you’re also confronted daily with the Christian faith and the Bible and all this insider talk about Jesus.

Another perfect, slow pitch and I crank up and talk about the questions the Bible and the Christian faith answer that other religions and philosophies don’t. Why is death a problem for us, even as we continue to try and treat it as just another part of life? Why are we shocked and hurt when natural disasters strike in various parts of the world, despite being brought up in a Western, materialist and evolutionary culture that presumes this is more or less how the world has always functioned? Why do I constantly maintain an internal baseline of who I ought to be, even though I never manage to meet that baseline? Why do I hold myself to a standard I have only ever imagined meeting? Why do I do the same things with others?

It was an amazing hour, and I know that at least some of the guys were really listening, really processing what I had to say which was, by the grace of God the Father, provided to and for me through God the Holy Spirit. An amazing opportunity to articulate the Gospel in response to a genuine curiosity. And a reminder that even when I am less than willing or interested the Holy Spirit is more than ready and capable to work in ways I could only dream of.

God is so very, very good, and I am so humbled and grateful to be an imperfect part of his work, throwing out seed and praying for him to raise up a harvest.

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