When my grandmother died a few years ago, one of her last wishes was to have “Amazing Grace” played at her funeral. Since then, my mother and I can barely stand to hear the tune without breaking down into tears.
Then last year, my church choir decided to sing “Amazing Grace/My Chains Are Gone” (popularized by Chris Tomlin) for our Easter services. At first, I was mortified and wondered if I would even be able to get through the song in front of our entire congregation. As we sang it week after week to practice, it became more and more familiar to me and less heart-wrenching. When Easter weekend rolled around, I had artfully mastered singing the tune while concentrating hard on the notes instead of the words.
I warned my mother ahead of time, so she could steel herself for this moment, and I avoided her gaze during the whole thing. Our choir sang it beautifully. And my mom and I got through it.
But ever since that fateful funeral and Easter moment, I keep running into this tune – it seems to be lurking around every corner. Our church pianists seem to play it every week and I’m beginning to think it may be the most popular Christian hymn out there. Chris Tomlin certainly hasn’t done me any favors by making it into that popular Christian radio tune either. (Part of the soundtrack from a movie with the same title no less…)
So when our pianist began playing a rendition of it again this Sunday, as I was poised to be the worship leader for the morning, I thought to myself, “I just can’t get away from this Amazing Grace!”
And then I laughed.
That thought is exactly right. I simply can’t get away from God’s amazing grace. It’s everywhere. He offers it to everyone and anyone who is willing to humble themselves for Him. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—” (Ephesians 2: 8 NIV)
And recently, I’ve not been offering any kind of grace to myself.
I screwed up some editing work the other day. And then again for another client yesterday. I ripped myself to shreds for it. Lost sleep over it. Told myself that I was not a good editor and that I would never amount to much. I was a loser and a failure.
God’s grace has saved me from all those lies.
Our pastor gave a sermon this weekend about guilt and remorse. He said, “If God has chosen to forgive you… why won’t you forgive yourself?” In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about his thorn in the flesh. No one really knows what it was…perhaps, like me, it was his own guilt and remorse over not living up to certain standards that he had placed upon himself. Paul really wanted to rid himself of this thorn – this “messenger from Satan” – and he pleaded with the Lord to take it away. (Just as I’ve pleaded with God for these pianists and our local radio station to NOT play this tune.) But Paul finally tells of how the Lord spoke to him saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9 NIV)
The Lord’s grace…his AMAZING GRACE is sufficient for me. I do not need to be afraid of or avoid it…I need to EMBRACE it.
So, no, I can’t get away from amazing grace. It will follow me all the days of my life and, for that, I am truly thankful. Now when I hear these words: ‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home. I don’t have to think sad thoughts of my grandmother – she is safe in heaven. God has led her home and, one day, He will lead me.
Grace will lead me home.
Instead of feeling sad and just getting through this song now I will remember these last lines (ones that have often brought tears to my eyes) with hope and joy:
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.