Grace Highlighted in the Life of a Rebel

Yesterday marked my husband’s 55th birthday. We celebrated with family, friends and cake. Lots of cake…way too much cake.

And lots of laughter too.

Sin, Folly and Rebellion

On more than one occasion, I found myself sort of “stepping back” and taking it all in. There was Warren, surrounded by people who care about him, uncomfortably accepting the attention he far more often prefers to avoid…and I could not help but overflow with gratitude for the grace of God in both of our lives.

Warren should have been dead many times over, and never seen this day.

He was that teenager. That young man.

If you’ve read some of his blogs here on ESI, you likely know a fair amount of his story. Despite how very different a man he is now – even from the leather jacket, dark-sunglasses guy I met 12 years ago – I’ll never forget that he was also the perpetually-drunk, aimless young man who once jumped off the top of a three-story fraternity house into the swimming pool below. He drove home after parties numerous times when he should never have been behind the wheel. He spent his free time around drug dealers; armed no less, and willing to defend their territory should someone decide to rip them off. And he let his anger out through his fists. A lot. (Come up close sometime and take a good look at that head of his. It’s covered with scars, marks of a very different life.)

From time to time, Warren will have someone tell him they are proud of the way he’s turned his life around, how he’s “matured” and become a different man.

But he didn’t grow up. And he didn’t just mature out of his stupid behavior. No, it wasn’t anything Warren did that kept him alive through many years of defiance or motivated him to finally change his way of life. It was the grace of God that he hit the pool’s deep end…and not the concrete around it. It was the grace of God that he arrived home after all those parties, without hurting himself or anyone else. It was the grace of God that during the season he spent around all those armed individuals, weapons were never discharged near him, or at him.

And it is the grace of God that chose the perfect time to shed light into the darkness of my foolish husband’s soul and begin the process of new life in the heart of an entrenched rebel.

55th Birthday

Maybe by now you’re wondering why I’m writing about Warren’s story, not my own. Certainly I could point to my own forms of rebellion and foolishness; there are plenty of examples in my history as well. But the truth is, Warren’s story is far more interesting and makes for a better read. His is a sordid and yet beautiful story of God’s forbearance.

God’s forbearance in the lives of His rebellious children is beyond my ability to comprehend. When I overlay God’s gracious patience on a single person’s history – Warren’s, my own, anyone’s – I find it hard to believe. What I see so clearly in Warren’s life is God’s patient saving work, turning an angry and hard heart into one that loves God, loves His Word, and loves others in ways that anyone who knew that punk college kid would have never been able to guess.

It’s beyond me to understand that kind of patience displayed in a single life, let alone the lives that make up the history of humanity over time.

If you look at our collective life histories, no matter how tame, not one of us deserve the depth of God’s love for us, the forbearance and patience that He is willing to extend to those He calls to Himself. It’s easier, maybe, to see it in a stark story like my husband’s. He definitely doesn’t “deserve” to be surrounded by people who love him after years of treating so many people so poorly. He doesn’t “deserve” to have his health – and most of his hair! – after decades of poisoning himself recklessly. He doesn’t “deserve” to even be alive. And yet yesterday was a beautiful, shining example of God’s abundant grace in the lives of believers.

Warren’s story is indeed more interesting to reflect upon. His may highlight for others more clearly the pure and abounding love of God for sinners, but your story and mine is no different. None of us get what we deserve. Our rebellion is an unbelievable affront to a supremely-holy God, and all of us should be stricken down for the ways in which we ignore God, disrespect Him, forget Him, take the good gifts we’re given and then complain that we don’t have more.

I encourage you to take 10 minutes of your day, slow down and think about all the ways in which God’s patient forbearance in your life is highlighted. Look around you and thank God for all the ways in which you have been faithfully loved and preserved by a God who is infinitely more patient than you or I can ever imagine.

Romans 5:8 (ESV)
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 8:31-35 (ESV)
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

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