Monday, November 14, 2005

Come Pick Me Up

D.L. Moody is famously (and oft) quoted as saying, while passing a drunkard on a curb, "There, but by the grace of God, go I." Unfortunately, I think people often interpret his quote as meaning "If not for God's grace, I could be that drunkard." Over the past few years I've begun to think a bit differently.

Am I incorrect, or are not all sins equal? Is not each sin simply an act of going against God, no matter what the exploit (or thought or intention) might be? Don't get me wrong; I understand the sentiment. If it weren't for God, we could all be on that street corner, passed out and filthy. Yet, here's what I'm getting at: isn't there a possibility we are, in some figurative sense, hugging that curb?

I have interviewed many people over the past few years that have fallen on hard and grievous times. What I have found in every story, however, is a piece of my own story. I cannot look at these men and women and haughtily sneer, "There, but by the grace of God, go I." I hear their stories, look at them and whisper, "Yes, I understand, I have been there, too." Our situations may not have been remotely similar, but our hearts prove identical mirrors.

No matter what they have been through; I have seen a bit of myself, a bit of my own rebellious heart in each and every heartache relayed. After all, what is sin, but heartache? The Bible cautions God's people to guard their hearts above all else, for the heart is the wellspring of life. Out of the heart comes life. Why? Because that is where the Holy Spirit resides. When we turn against the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are turning against, and in turn hurting, our own hearts. We are creating heartache.

I may not have lived a life so utterly downtrodden as others I have known, but I have allowed my soul to live there. I have allowed my heart to dry up, to crack like parched soil. And yet, the grace of God allows me to return, to drink again and again from waters that will not run dry, no matter what. So, no, I may not be a drunkard, hugging the ground with all my might, but my heart, my heart has. Therefore, I thank God for His grace. And I thank Him for redemption. I thank Him for continuing to teach me, for not giving up on me, for not passing me by as I lay on the sidewalk-- for offering me a hand, for picking me up.

Maybe, just maybe what Moody meant by, "There, but for the grace of God, go I" wasn't that without God's grace he would be a filthy drunkard. Maybe what he meant, and what I know is true of myself, was that it is only by the grace of God that my drunkard heart would never be left alone on a dirty curb. For He will pick me up and carry me to safety, away from public, prying eyes. He refuses to leave me or forsake me, no matter where or how I stray. That is the grace of God.