In his book, The Grace of God, Andy Stanley writes about the Samaritan woman who Jesus encounters at Jacob’s well (as found in the Gospel of John). He makes a great observation. Right after Jesus points out this woman’s past history and current status with men, the woman diverts the attention away from her by talking about the proper way to worship. Andy Stanley says, “It’s always easier to talk about theology than our pain.”
This isn’t to say that theology is a bad thing. We need to diligent in our study of scripture. This is God’s word to us. We ought to be able to understand what it means. I’m starting my Master’s Class up at Denver Seminary right now, so I totally believe this is important. I just resonate with this idea that until we are willing to be a little exposed and vulnerable, we’ll never be able to help other people open up to the possibility.
Here is a quote from Frederick Buechner (The Two Stories):
“Because all peddlers of God’s word have that in common, I think: they tell what costs them least to tell and what will gain them most; and to tell the story of who we really are and of the battle between light and dark, between belief and unbelief, between sin and grace that is waged within us all costs us plenty and may not gain us anything, we’re afraid, but an uneasy silence and a fishy stare.”
The challenge all of us have as Christians, and even as Pastors in the church, is to avoid the easy road and risk the “uneasy silence and fishy stares” that are sure to come as a result of our authenticity.
I’ve got a framed picture of Abraham Lincoln on my side of the bedroom. I can’t say my wife appreciates it too much since he’s staring at us when we wake up in the morning; he’s not the most attractive man in the world. (However, on the plus side, he makes me look like Matthew McConaughey by comparison) But it’s really my wife’s fault – she bought me the picture as a Christmas present! So I can put it wherever I want, right? Okay…maybe not.
Anyway, my framed picture of the greatest U.S. President ever has a word written across the bottom of it:
I like to see that word when I wake up in the morning because it is a great reminder of why I do what I do. Abraham Lincoln fought for the freedom of captive slaves. I fight for the freedom of captive hearts. I long to see God able to work His grace in people’s hearts.
It’s God’s Grace that brings freedom!
Just like the story of the woman at the well, grace doesn’t erase the past – the pain or the memory. Andy Stanley says this is God’s “in-spite-of” grace. It’s a grace that “leverages our past” so that we can be free to be used more powerfully in our present. Free from guilt. Free from shame. Free to live in the peace that only God can provide despite what we’ve done or what was done to us.
This I know…God can and does use people like this!