Carved with Grace

To find an escape from the busyness of the city, we retreated to the mountains. As time goes on, I find that I come to life in the seclusion of the forest. It’s walking through His creation that my soul is quieted as I notice the small glimpses of His glory that are truly all around us. His creation is like a sanctuary where I love to be still and know that He is God. As I took off my shoes and felt the soft, wet moss between my toes, I giggled and embraced the childlike joy that lives within.

As I explored this green playground of His beauty, I looked over and saw a word carved into the bark of the tree. On the tree was carved grace, and as I got closer and allowed my fingers to run over the words etched into the flesh of the tree, I thought of the day that Jesus hung on a tree and allowed nails to pierce His flesh so that grace could not only be carved into my heart, but so that I could be carved into His family. His grace saved my life, and walking daily in His all-sufficient grace is a gift. These crimson letters that spelled grace made my heart swell with appreciation for the crimson blood that paid my ransom.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ~ Mark 10:45

“For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.” ~1 Timothy 2:5-6

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” ~Ephesians 2:8-10

As I pondered my life and how He has pulled me out from the miry clay, His grace – the absolutely free gift of love from God to man – is so evident. The brokenness of my past flashed through my mind and in that moment of seeing that crimson word carved on that tree, I was completely thankful for the richness of the story He has given me.

“He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the Lord. How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust,
And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.
Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done,
And Your thoughts toward us;
There is none to compare with You.
If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count.” ~Psalm 40:2-5

We all have a story waiting to be told. The burying of the baby, the mother who died from cancer, the loved one who pulled the trigger, the broken dream, the shattered marriage, the saying goodbyes that never get easier….whatever your story is, these experiences lived by us all do not leave us unchanged. But each heartache is a moment of seeing God’s wonders, because each moment is a chance to surrender our pain to the Healer for restoration and ultimately His glory. These stories in our lives are a chance to see the miracle of how He takes unthinkable horror and turns it into a beautiful message for you and others looking on. Each moment is a chance to walk redeemed as the Maker of heaven and earth takes His chisel and carves a new identity on a once tattered heart. This refinement is pain with purpose. We are still changed and we still remember the weight of grief, but when we accept His grace – His undeserved, unmerited favor – and decide that it’s ok to remember the pain and that there is no shame in feeling sorrow, our chains are broken and wild joy abounds.

“I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart. Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together.I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles.” ~Psalm 34:1-6

I’m starting to believe that the broken ones – the ones He allows to be refined by the deepest heartache – are truly His beloved ones. We are the ones He holds dear to His heart. We are the ones who know rescue and who have been carried by the Shepherd. We are the ones who see the beauty of His purifying love. Without sorrow, there is no joy. Without brokenness, there is no reason to know the Healer. Without despair, there would be no hope, and when there is a blazing fire within our soul to walk in hope, His grace becomes most precious. Salvation’s nail scarred hand covers the world scarred heart and through His grace, He renames the rejected one Mine.

This story we live is a story to be told. But how do we do this? We ask the three words I’m finding we all long to hear: how are you? And then we listen. We listen and rejoice as the redeemed we meet share their own stories carved with grace, and we listen as the broken share their need to know who died to save them. And as we listen we wait. We wait and watch and pray and when we see the Spirit open the door to share our grace stories, we don’t hesitate. Our stories are written in a way to be told. Our lives are allowed to be broken so that we might taste the joy of salvation as we take the hand carved by a nail and run from the darkness into His light.

As I walk around sorrowful yet always rejoicing in my Healer, I’m learning that each person He places in my path – the man on the bus, the woman at the park, the friend I meet for coffee – is an opportunity to tell my story of finding Grace, and therefore joy. And each time I tell my story of redemption as a bridge to tell the story of my Redeemer, I feel the rawness of my wounds covered by His free gift of grace all over again. Each time I open my heart up to feel the pain once more, the life that hears is impacted, and the life that just told it has a deepening of the joy of her salvation.

The beautiful, painful, joyful story He is writing with your life is a story that is meant to be shared. Don’t rob the world from hearing! Will you be brave enough to open your life and share your story with others?

“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story…” ~Psalm 107:2

So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News.” ~2 Timothy 1:8-10

“Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me.” ~Psalm 66:16