Two years ago I boarded a plane for India. I still remember the disbelief settling into my bones as I tried to convince myself of the reality that my trip to 11 countries in 11 months began the moment the plane closed its doors. Or was it the moment I was accepted? Or the moment I clicked “apply”? Or when my heart leapt for joy after watched the World Race video promo? Or when…or when…or when…
but it began before all of that.
A multitude of factors played into my journey to India and the other eleven countries I visited in 2015. God shows his character with David and Jeremiah when he tells them that he knew them before their birth (Psalm 139:13, Jeremiah 1:5), and I am confident he prepared my path to the World Race even when I planned on 100 different paths that had nothing to do with him.
Even with my plans for the World Race, I anticipated enjoying travelling and helping people all over the world, but God prepared for something better. Something I didn’t want. He knew I would encounter the parts of Sarah I hid even from myself. He knew I would cry, scream, lie, and break. He knew I would get stomach bugs, sinus infections, Dengue Fever, head lice, and more. He knew my depression would reemerge. He knew I would resist giving him complete control as I tried to do things my way in my timing, and he also knew I would ask him to hold me when I cried about my plans not working out. He also knew I would meet best friends, and that I’d have to say goodbye to them.
He also knew that the World Race wouldn’t be the highlight of my life. It would be the kick in the right direction. The World Race brought me to my boiling point, where he destroyed the toxicity from unforgiveness and selfishness in order that I might look up and find him.
But God didn’t leave it at that. God wants more than just for us to stop staring at our own wounds. He wanted me to bring that healing to others, just as others brought it to me.
Perhaps it sounds incredible that I travelled to 11 countries in 11 months to some people, but, honestly, it dulls in comparison the grander scheme. Like a parent giving their child the gift of their dreams, I imagine God did the same thing when he handed me 2016 wrapped in a bow. I imagine him muttering “You have no idea…”under his breath.
I began 2016 with a decision to strive only to fall in love with God more every day, and he handed me everything else. Everyday I continue to learn that the more I let go, the more I gain. Once I let go of my expectations, I allow God to surprise me. Before I even began searching, God gave me a job. When I looked for community, a friend drove me to a women’s small group. As I dreamed of college ministry, someone introduced me to the college pastor at my church, who put me on his team immediately. The week I decided to start mentoring young women, God introduced me to a girl who had been following my World Race. When I almost gave up on my dream of taking hip hop dance lessons, the teacher at a local art’s center texted me asking me to join. As I mourned the loss of my friends who live all over the world, God began growing friendships with people who also needed honest friends. When I finally gave up on finding a place to live with a roommate, God sent me a roommate and an apartment in the same month. He told me to wait when I started looking for a job in order to pay for the apartment, and then handed me that too.
Do not be deceived, friends, this has been the hardest year of my life. I have faced heartbreaks, challenges, failure, self-doubt, death, arguments, and lies. I screwed up a lot. In fact, I ran from God more times than I’m comfortable admitting. I tried to drown my sorrows out with movies and people instead of hitting my face in front of the only one who could actually help me.
And yet, God continued to love me. He continued to give me beautiful opportunities, friendships, and joy. Why? I don’t deserve any of it. I thought of myself more than I thought of others, and I ignored God for the majority of each day. And that’s not even mentioning my track record. Why did he continue to give me all those things?
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10 ESV emphasis added)
But God gave me grace, regardless of any work I attempted.
“Ok, Sarah, you talk about this ‘grace’ business a lot, and I thought it could only be used in reference to swans and dancers. Are you saying God loves you because he’s good at ballet? That doesn’t make sense.”
So what is this grace? According to the Hebrew word, “chen,” used in the Old Testament, it simply means, “favor.” And according to the Greek word “charis,” used in the New Testament, it means “of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.”
Well that’s a lot of words. What is it simply?
Grace = BUT GOD
Grace means, that we try really hard alone or run away, BUT GOD continues to love, bless, strengthen, and empower us. It’s nonsense. It’s equivalent to that time your friend hurt you deeply, and you hugging them and still fighting for them regardless.
I didn’t know this post would be about grace. I originally intended to reflect on the past two years, and I didn’t know that the summary would merely be “But God.”
But it makes sense. Because I planned a post about all the things that happened, but God knew I would find grace all over it.
Because I’ve been ruined.