…Because of His Mercy
More than thirty years ago, an angry young man came to the end of himself and gave his life to Christ. Here’s a brief account of how it happened:
On this night thirty-three years ago, I sat on the edge of a dock looking out at the waters of a small lake. I had come there on a retreat with a friend’s church youth group. Not brought up in the church, I didn’t have any preconceived notions about how to pray, so I just began pouring my heart out to God: confessing my sin, my futile self-reliance, and all the reasons I was unworthy to come to Him. I understood that I was sinner, and I was keenly aware of my need for God.
There is a famous quote, variously attributed to Pascal, Augustine, or Ambrose, which says, “There is a God-shaped vacuum inside each of us which only God can fill.” For me, that vacuum was all too real and palpable. As I sat there praying to God, I remember looking up at the vastness of the night sky and clearly sensing that He was there all around me, filling every space—every space except for the tiny insignificant void inside of me. Then it dawned on me that in His divine greed, He wanted to fill that space too!
While I can remember the perceptions and emotions of that night quite clearly, I recall almost nothing of the things I actually said in that prayer. The only thing I do remember saying is this: “God, I don’t know what kind of servant I’m going to be for you, but I want to the best I can be.” That moment when I spoke those words is the closest I think I’ve ever gotten to genuine humility. My pride was broken, my vanity spent, I knew I had nothing to offer. And yet, somehow, I knew that God wanted all of me, and I wanted nothing more than to be of some use for Him.
As I got up from the dock and headed off to bed that night, I remember feeling as if an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I had just been freed from the burden of my sin, and all the separation, guilt, anxiety, and utter loneliness that go with it. That night, my step was light, and my heart was full.
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)