Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Thank Goodness for Grace

I have this goal of being a selfless person. And I like to think I'm improving, getting a bit closer to being a servant-hearted and loving person. To not thinking of myself first, but putting the interests of others above my own. I'd like to think I'm overall a nice, kind, genuine, loving individual. Oh man, how wrong I am. And every time I start to pat myself on the back a few too many times, start to tell myself I'm doing alright, I get knocked off my high horse and reminded who I really am, a broken, self-centered, sinful human desperately in need of salvation and utterly incapable of saving myself. Thank goodness for grace. 

Let me tell you a story. And let's preface it with this, it isn't one I'm proud of. I'd rather not share it. But at the same time, I'm so overjoyed because of it, because it is a perfect portrayal of beautiful grace. 

This morning I helped someone fix their bike as they were going to work. But that isn't the end of the story, or even the beginning, it's the nice-sounding middle that has much more to it. 

I got up nice and early, the 5 a.m. air was cool, calm, and cleansing. It rushed past as I ran along the sidewalk. I was going at a decent pace, I actually felt like I was running pretty fast (though I'm sure that was all in my head) and the run felt so good, the way running should always feel. I was loving it. Still dark, the streets barely lit by poor street lighting, I was totally alone, totally at peace, no music, no cars, just me, the world, and God. Perfect. 

I ran along Franklin Street towards Wash Park, prepared for a nice jaunt around the park. And I was flying, or at least it felt like it, I wasn't even tired or winded yet. This was the best run I'd had since coming back to Denver and adjusting to the significant lack of oxygen. The best run I'd had in weeks, in fact. 

As I neared Wash Park I noticed someone stopped with their bike, a dim light, like one from a cell phone, was shining on the back wheel which they appeared to be adjusting. In that moment a small part of me unconsciously said "I wonder if they need help?" And the rest of my mind and body kept jogging. 

I kept jogging. 

For about 2 and a half seconds. 

Then I thought again, stopped, and jogged back. 

She was on her way to work, a small blue light, one of the ones you put on your keychain, propped against the sidewalk as she attempted to hold her bike up against her body and put the disconnected chain back on her bike. She'd popped off half the chain-guard (those things are the WORST) and was struggling to put the chain on. With each seeming success, the other part would fall off, and so on. 

I asked if I could help. 

We spent about 5 minutes and eventually broke the plastic guard off completely, removed the chain entirely from the front as well, put in on the back, then on the front, and got the bike back to functionality. She thanked me for stopping, expressed happiness that she'd left extra early for work that day, and pedaled off into the darkness towards whatever job she was going to. 

I resumed my jog, feeling pretty darn good about myself for helping, glad I'd been willing to sacrifice part of a really good run, stop my really good pace, and help someone out. Glad I'd gotten to serve, glad I'd gotten to show someone the love of Jesus, even if I hadn't been able to preach the gospel with words. 

I hadn't yet recognized what you all already know, that I didn't stop right away, that at first, I kept jogging

Oh, what a selfish sinner am I. 

As I ran around the park, I talked with God, as I often do on runs. I don't exactly remember what I was praying about, I think mostly grace and brokenness and asking God to keep showing me how broken I am, keep making me humble. I was thanking Him for the Cross, for coming and dying, that I might live. I remember singing in my head the words, "Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all." I remember going over the 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness."

I don't say these things to show you what a good little follower of Jesus I am for praying and singing and reciting Bible verses while running. I tell you these things so you see the thoughts and words that led up to the real, painful, beautiful part of the story. 

My brokenness. His grace. 

Suddenly I was struck with the realization that I did not stop for that woman. I didn't stop. I didn't stop. Tears filled my eyes and my arms went limp at my sides as I realized the enormity of that statement. 

How selfish I am! I just wanted to keep running, enjoy my fast pace, my peaceful, wonderful run, have a successful run, by my standards. A successful run by my standards was far from the successful run God had planned for me.

I didn't stop. Jesus did. I would have kept going. I would have let that woman struggle with her broken chain until someone else chose to be selfless or she finally fixed it or walked it, broken and useless, to work. 

I didn't stop. And by the grace of God, He stopped my mind, heart, and running feet and cried out to me, "What would I do? What would I do for her?" And by the grace of God, I listened. By the grace of God, I helped. By the grace of God, I was able to show some of Jesus' love. 

Not by my own strength, my own love, my own servant's heart, my own selflessness. Not by any power of my own. Because I am broken, sinful, selfish, and utterly in need of freedom, grace, truth, and salvation, none of which, I can gain without the beautiful grace, love, and forgiveness of glorious, merciful Jesus. 

Bottom line: I SUCK. And the only good in me, is from Jesus. 

And I finished my run mulling over this in my heart, thanking God for His grace, begging Him to free me of my sin and continue to reveal to me my brokenness. 

The sky was barely lit by the hazy glow of a rising sun, a dawning day, bathing the world in a pale golden hue, like my soul cleansed in beautiful grace. 

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." 1 Timothy 1:15-17

By the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ I am slowly learning the truth that I am the Chief of All Sinners. Thank goodness for His beautiful grace.