Friday, July 22, 2011

Receiving God's Grace

Ephesians 2:5-8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God

What does it feel like to be touched by God and receive his Grace?

This is an epilogue to a recent story of how I was able to figure things out while running the 28.2 mile Trap Hills Traverse, which can be found here.

A few weeks ago I met with the priest of my local church back home. As we wrapped up our talk, he stood up, placed his hand on my head and told me that for one solid calendar year he would pray one decade of his daily rosary for me. While I understand that no man should come between you and the God (1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus) to have a friend in Christ to love me that much, the love of God is so much greater and I am at his mercy.  During our talk, he used this analogy to which I have expanded upon below.

Imagine you are trying to assemble a thousand piece puzzle by yourself and you work on it every day. The puzzle is a picture of the sky, so while all of the pieces are different, they are all the same color blue. You are really good at placing the pieces on table inside the framed edges but you are trying to force pieces where they don't belong. Every once in a while you find the right one and while that is gratifying, despair ensues as you realize that the puzzle is far from complete. There is a picture on the box and even instructions inside but you are too stubborn to look at them and you never ask for any help. This goes on for 10 years and ultimately you give up.

This is where my life has been. I was searching for my purpose and thought that I could do it on my own. I gained confidence through running and through an addictive personality, I found that the more I ran, the faster I became, which made me want to do it more. It was a vicious cycle. I would run races weekly trying to find what was missing in my life. I would capture an occasional win, but that would be followed by the depression that I had to start training all over again to get back to that false high. I was spiraling out of control and I was too stubborn to ask for help.

Now image if you had looked at the box and read the instructions. The first thing you read is that you have to admit that you can not put together the puzzle alone; but you have to ask for help. Realizing this, the pieces start to almost place themselves.

Finally I was able to open my eyes and see what I was missing. I realized I was living selfishly, never putting anyone before me and trying to put together the puzzle on my own. For the first time in my life, I was able to put someone else before me and it felt amazing. Yet I was still obsessed with the puzzle.   I also realized that I was chasing temporary glory for myself with winning medals and the real reason for competition was noted in 1 Corinthians 9:25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Now imagine that you are feverishly solving the puzzle and you see that there are only 5 empty pieces in the middle of the puzzle that remain. With great excitement, you reach into the box and realize that there are no more pieces left. The remaining instructions are missing and you don't know what to do.

I was able to learn so much about myself and how to be a better person but I was unable to solve the puzzle because I ran out of pieces. It was only by admitting that I was not in control of my life and placing my path in the hands of God was I able to find the rest of the instructions. The puzzle pieces weren’t missing after all, I just wasn’t ready to see them and there was a reason why they all were joined together in the center of the puzzle. I was being tested to see if my heart was ready to finish the puzzle. He showed me that the missing pieces where my friends, my family, my loved ones and the last two were me and God.

One of the most amazing things that I have noticed since receiving God's Grace has been the clarity in my life. I see a purpose and I understand what the priorities of my life should be. As read in Micah 6:8, He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Understanding this can help put all else into perspective. I realize that God should be loved above all else. Only then can your heart be prepared to love another. To accomplish this I need to continue to learn more about my faith through reading the bible and going to church via 2 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. and following more closely in his footsteps.

Among the many things that have become clear, include balance.  Working on balance in my life is important and to constantly remember not to invest all of my energy into a single task.

Faith has helped me to recognize that I need to focus on being a better listener/communicator and I have been working hard on this everyday.

I am relaxing more and enjoying life, not living it by a schedule. I have been talking openly about my feelings and thoughts with loved ones even if it about uncomfortable things. This is something I would never have done before but with this clarity it is so much easier.

I also want to get back to reading and writing short stories more as I find much pleasure in this.

I am also venturing out of my shell and trying things that I never would have in the past and making them part of my life; no more will I be bound by my past and what I was comfortable with, but will expand it out to experience the joys of the rest of the world.

I have also found that while I have always been considerate and thoughtful, I feel a deeper sense of caring for all people and things. Grace has empowered me to see things in a different light and appreciate them so much more. No longer do I appreciate the simple beauty of the tree but recognize the beauty of the entire forest for which it lies.

My running will not suffer, but I suspect that it will improve greatly as I now run to honor and serve the Lord and have new purpose.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.  With difficult decisions ahead on the role that this sport will have in my life, I fear not.  Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  It is with this strength that I know I will make the right choices guided by His direction.

I want to strive toward becoming someone you are proud to know; for who I am, not how fast I am or how far I can run.  I admire my dad dearly and his is known to be a great man, a man for which you are a better person for having known.  There is much work ahead but I can best honor him and our Heavenly Father by trying to be the best man that I can.  I will show those close to me how much they truly mean and to continue to express my love for that special someone in a way that is more than they have ever known, as in John 15:13 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.

I am learning to appreciate the gifts that I have been blessed with and and trying to figure out a way to use these gifts to help others in need, even it is just to inspire them that change is possible. While I am not as fast as Olympic marathoner Ryan Hall or is my faith as mature, I think that we share something in common. He has been able to use his gifts to inspire others to follow in the footsteps of the Lord. I am reminded of Matthew 5:16, Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. If you haven’t watched Ryan’s Passion for the run video, it is worth checking out using this link.  My life has not had incredible hardships, but I have many experiences and gifts that I want to share with others and hopefully better their lives.

Ultimately, believe in yourself, as God believes in you. Jeremiah 29:11 reads - For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. I know not what that path holds, but I know that it will be greater than anything I have ever known.

So what does it feel like to be touched by God and receive his Grace?  Though we don't deserve it, God has shown me His grace by providing strength and guidance and the ability to change my life and it feels like nothing I have ever felt.