Right now, I am reading two very fine books. Both are books that speak of the grace of God but from two different eras. I am reading a new edition of the Letters of John Newton (I am not linking this book to Amazon because apparently they do not carry this book yet.) and L. L. Barkat’s Stone Crossings. Both books are deeply personal. Both have helped me as I reflect upon the grace of God in my own story.
I was attracted to reading Newton’s letters because of his own story as slave trader and his radical life change because of Jesus. I was particularly attracted to him, though, because he wrote a hymn that I have loved for many years: "Amazing Grace." I am reading Barkat’s book because of her blog and her ability to write a story with the words of a poet. The subtitle of her book, incidentally, is "Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places."
I read Newton’s letters and heard one speak who knows something about the human heart and the God of grace. These letters were written long ago (Newton was born in London in 1725.), but I find his words nurturing and encouraging. His life and ministry were apparently just as encouraging:
. . . his fame became more widespread and people came from far and near to seek his counsel and help. His friendly and hospitable home at Olney, and later in London, was a place to which the troubled and tempted resorted. They found in him one who had been a worse sinner than themselves and who could enter into their experiences with tenderness and sympathy. (p. xi)
This morning, I read again a line that was especially meaningful to me in Stone Crossings. This particular line will resonate with many people. Barkat is reflecting on the story of Genesis and the shame that appears in the story early on:
It seems that Adam felt like I used to feel — that it would be comforting to hide in darkness, that it would be a relief to flee from the God who walks around knowing what I’ve been up to. (p. 19)
In a few words, she has captured the way many, many of us used to feel about God. Many, many people continue to feel this way. Many people believe that the only safe place is darkness.
Both of these books have been a reminder to me of God’s rich mercy. They have reminded me of his grace in my own life. I’m thankful.
Today, I want to think about God’s desire to be with me and to have me live in his presence. God’s love for me and you is not because we are a certain kind of people or a certain kind of Christian. His love for me today is because he is a God of grace.