Buried in Grace.
Before we take a break from posting fortnightly for summer, I wanted to share some reflections about my walk with God from the last couple of months.
I last posted here around March when I was facing a weekly battle of taking myself to therapy to help untangle my brain. Week by week I walked through my life story and had some pretty big “oooooh riiiiight, of course” moments. That process brought me to a place of understanding more about how I interact with others, the church and God than I ever could have considered. With the grace of God my internal voice has become kinder and more compassionate towards myself and along with also attending the Freedom in Christ discipleship course, I feel a very real difference in my daily life- fear really has had to leave; because freedom is here!
The biggest event in the last while, in which lots of you shared, was my unplanned baptism on Easter Sunday. When Pastor Andrew said the words “anyone else for baptism?”, I knew it was the right thing to do. But the reason I knew, was because quietly in my car a few days earlier; God had asked me to be baptised on Easter Sunday. With this call coming only days before the service was due to take place I was caught up in logistics about not having come forward sooner. So quite simply I conveniently and intentionally forgot to get round to doing anything about it, quietly resolving to do it next time around. But God gave me another prompt- the Thursday before my baptism I received a word at small group, which really couldn’t have been more of a prompt to baptism unless someone had literally spelled out the words “You are getting baptised on Sunday” in front of my face. But still, I didn’t do anything about it.
Easter Sunday came and to be honest, I was glad I hadn’t spoken up because I’m not sure I would have turned up. The morning started with a heart broken, sobbing, wretching lament to God from my bathroom floor triggered by unexpected news. I forced myself to get up from the floor and get ready for church but I felt defeated and my need for Jesus magnified as I arrived at the service. I felt right back in that desert place where I had to choose to either succumb to emotions and circumstances or choose Jesus. I was determined as I took a seat right at the back of the service- I would choose Jesus. And when that call came, “any one else for baptism?”, who was I to say no? So dressed in my favourite dress I surrendered to the goodness of God and was buried and raised in his grace. Months on I remain in awe at the goodness of God on my baptism day. I was far from obedient, in fact I choose specifically not to be obedient. But God took my sinful disobedience, washed in the waters of grace and His will was still done and His goodness and faithfulness tangible.
In the weeks following baptism I felt compelled to ask God for further understanding of His goodness and faithfulness in my life. This quickly turned into asking God for a physical, tangible opportunity to lay down for the final time the acute hurts, frustrations and offence that have come from a year of recovering from shattered dreams. And surely, that moment came, looking nothing like I could or would have prayed for.
At small group last term we studied Bill Johnsons “God is Good” and the final session focused on the goodness of God in the middle of loss. I maintained some form of composure as Bill closed his final session saying these words about loss;
“Bury it deep in the soil of His grace.”
Conversation started around me about the content of the session but I couldn’t concentrate. I knew God was talking to me, asking me to go to a secret place and bury my hurts, offence and shattered dreams in the goodness of his grace. So right there I began to pray through those things silently. But I began to feel God telling me there was something more I was to do; God was asking me to do something I knew I didn’t want to do. He was asking me to quite literally bury something and he was asking me to do it as a tangible act of forgiveness. I was to bury my engagement and wedding rings.
And really, this wasn’t joyous news to me. I went home from small group and instantly thought about how I had probably heard God wrong. Let’s be real- who buries something in the ground that cost a lot of money and is the most expensive gift they’ve ever received? I convinced myself I could sell them and put the money towards a good cause or you know; a mortgage! But then came Sunday morning and the confirmation that selling the rings was not God’s plan. During worship Pastor Kenny shared the story about the women in the bible who anoints Jesus with expensive perfume to ready him for burial, in fact she walks into the room and breaks the perfume bottle above his head so it covers Jesus. The other people in the room become angry with the woman telling her she should have sold the perfume and given the money to they poor. But Jesus hushed the people and blessed the woman for laying down what she had to anoint him for burial. When I went home I pored over the story (Mark 14:1-10) and read of how tender Jesus was towards the woman. Jesus said what she had done was beautiful because she had done what she could with what she had. I knew I had to do what I could with what I had. It didn’t matter if what I was to bury was valuable- because I was doing so as an act of surrender to the grace of God.
As I continued to wrestle with my unexpected assignment I concluded; burial is beautiful. Often, we bury things to grow; seeds, plants, bulbs, and foundations of buildings. Things can’t grow until they are first buried. We bury our loved ones in peaceful respect and remembrance. Burial is intentional. And it’s a million miles away from angrily hurling the rings out of the living room window and into the canal like I often spoke of doing in more delicate, less rational moments. So I began to plan. I planned the burial intentionally, quickly and with the only person I was sure would understand- Mumma Frank. Any woman who can receive a hurried message detailing their daughters intention to bury her once most valuable possession in soil and can respond with only “of course we can do that honey” is exactly the adventure partner I needed. Mum went further than that, she also chose the perfect place, because ; “Jennifer, if you’re going to bury those rings- you may as well do it somewhere beautiful.”
So off we went, the rings wrapped in a shroud of beautiful gold organza and tied up with a neatly written prayer. When we reached the perfect place, I left my mum standing guard and went into a boggy field, dug a hole, stuffed the gold organza bag down into the ground and watched the rings be covered in soil. In this secret place I prayed, asking God for seven times more blessing in the place of all I had lost. There was no anger, no blame, no hurt; I felt only peace as I walked steadily and surely away from my treasure to continue my adventure. And I think about those rings sometimes and I smile, remembering only that every part of every shattered dream is buried in the soil of God’s unending grace.
“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal” John 12: 24-25.
Thank you Lord for forever, real and eternal life in your reckless, grace filled love.
Thoughts, experiences, and encouragement from the ladies of Falkirk Vineyard.