Reflections On a Year of Grace

On Tuesday I teared up on a zip line.

While I’m not the type hesitant to shed a tear, I think that’s a first for me. And before you draw conclusions, no, it wasn’t because I was deathly afraid of the zip line.

Tuesday marked one year since I started at Grace Church. I found myself celebrating the milestone zip lining in our church backyard with a group of amazing fifth graders during Grace’s “VBS on steroids,” as I like to call it, Summer BreakOut.

We were playing a dueling zip lines game in which each team’s representatives attempt to drop a ball in a bucket on the ride down in order to get a point for the team. I got one turn at the very end of our time, so I reached down as close as I could to the bucket and dropped in the ball for what my fifth graders informed me was the game-winning point (there’s video evidence if you’re a doubter).

As I ran the rope & seat back to the starting point, I felt the Holy Spirit. I feel like I’ve been hearing Him more than ever lately. A moment of joy here, a prompting there. This was one of those joy moments, but it felt bigger than that. I was running up the hill, tearing up, thinking “THIS IS MY JOB.” Insert head explosion emoji. Ok, I guess I didn’t tear up on the zip line. I teared up mid-run back up the hill. Close enough.

Look, I’m a sentimental guy. I’m really sappy. Ask anyone who knows me well. If that’s not your speed, well, sue me (to quote Michael Scott), because I think God is worth all our sentiments and so much more.

God’s voice as I ran back up the hill, rope in hand, was much stronger than a momentary wave of emotion coming over me. It was something like this:

I’ve blessed you.
I made you for this.
You’re right where you’re supposed to be.

Those words sound innocent. Those phrases sound simple. But they capture a monumental shift in the way I view the God I serve. For about four years post-college, I struggled to live in the calling God had placed upon my life as I struggled to view that God was for me.

In April 2020, God brought me to my knees in the midst of the COVID pandemic. The few months prior, my life had felt broken. Work, relationships, community — nothing had panned out the way I envisioned it. I was anxious, dissatisfied and stuck. I needed a breakthrough. A remnant of faith remained in my heart that God had something good in store for my life. I knew somewhere in the back of my mind and heart that He had called me to ministry, but I felt like a shell of the man who once believed God would use my life powerfully to advance His Kingdom.

Having moved in with my parents during the COVID shutdown, I made a deal with myself: if I’m going to be stuck here inside a house unclear about the next step of my life, I am NOT going to waste this opportunity to seek God’s will.

So, for the next few months, I went to battle. I pored over the Word, and I found a love for Scripture again. I got on my knees and bared my heart, and I found a God that listened again. I worshipped alone in my room, and I found a God that delighted in my praise.

On my knees, I found the Jesus I once loved with all of my heart, and He, in turn, found the man I remembered being when I had walked closely with Him. The words of “Defender” ring so true: When I thought I lost me, You knew where I left me // You reintroduced me to Your love // You picked up all my pieces, put me back together // You are the defender of my heart.

God reinvigorated a desire for Him that I knew was underneath a tangle of fear, insecurity and frustration. He turned my flickering flame into a steady fire again as I spent time with Him daily. I began to sense that it was time to make a move into occupational ministry — something that had been a long time coming.

It was the beginning of April, and I told God I wanted to be out of my job by the end of May, as if my timeline for Him somehow mattered. I had zero leads. I didn’t know who to talk to or what to do. I had no idea where God wanted me. So I prayed. After I prayed, one of my old youth pastors came to mind. I prayed more, and he came to mind again, so I called him.

One thing led to another, and I was soon filling out an application to work at his church. On May 28th, I was notified that I had gotten the role (God honored the timeline I had created, which I think was one of those “God has a sense of humor” things). On June 13th, I moved to the Kansas City area. On June 15th, 2020, I started at Grace Church. A year later, I was tearing up on a zip line. Ok, next to it.

There are utterly countless reasons for the zip line tears, but I will do my best to summarize them in three ways that capture God’s great rescue operation on my view of Him that began on June 15, 2020.

God is faithful.

I recently shared this verse with the students I’m entrusted with: “if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). I love this verse because it gives one of the most reassuring reminders I know: it’s not about me. God’s promises are God’s to keep, and if He began a good work in me, He will finish it (Philippians 1:6).

God started a work in me long, long ago when I trusted Christ as my Savior as a young child. Despite a lack of desire to follow Him during many teenage years, He called me back to Himself before I entered college. While there, I thrived, and He began calling me to ministry. My desire to follow that call rise and fell, and I dipped to some of the lowest points of my life after graduating from college. I always believed, but I didn’t always follow. Nonetheless, He was coming after me, relentlessly. He never stopped.

My sin didn’t stop Him. My anxiety didn’t stop Him. My worldly pursuits didn’t stop Him. He pursued me regardless of my faithlessness, because He is faithful. That’s who He is, and He is unable to not be Himself. If God changed His character, He would not be God. But He is God, and He cannot disown Himself, even when those He has chosen forget their chosen-ness.

I can confidently say this last year has been the best year of my life, immediately following some of the worst years of my life. God’s restoration of my heart and mind over the past year has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Him. It has everything to do with His faithfulness.

In my role at Grace Church, I’ve found the faithfulness of God in the face of His church.

God will use His Church to reach the world.

From the moment of my first interview to work at Grace, I knew it was a place I wanted to be. I could tell the people were of utmost quality. They were incredibly kind and…not weird. They were just great people committed to serving Jesus in KC. I was really excited to step in and see whether my first impressions translated to solid relationships and good community.

Any expectations I had were entirely blown out of the water in the best possible way when I arrived at Grace. 365 days later, I’m still in awe of the people I get to work with, serve with, and minister to. Our leaders are worth following. Our church is worth investing in. Our community is worth reaching.

Through Grace, God has utterly restored my confidence in His plan to use His Church to reach the world. I believe in our mission, our vision, and our values, and I do so without hesitation.

I believe in our staff. I believe in our people. But I believe most of all in God’s decision to use us to minister to a broken world. He doesn’t have to use us, but He does. And I see Him using Grace every single day.

I love going to work. I can hardly wait to jet out the door each day. I sound crazy, but sometimes I wish I could just sleep there so I’d never have to stop (yes, Sabbath, rest, that stuff…I know. God has been working on those areas of my life). I think I say “I can’t believe this is my job” at least once a week.

Friends, there are good churches full of really normal people that believe in God’s Word and just want to do what He wants them to do. Grace is one of them. Our people still sin (surprise), so we’re not perfect. But we’re asking what God wants us to do. And we’re giving Him our best in our attempts to do whatever that may be.

Grace Church is aptly named, because I think the biggest revelation I’ve had in my year here is one of God’s grace.

God is overwhelmingly gracious.

I sound like a broken record every time I speak at Grace Students when I inevitably find a way to weave Romans 5:8 into my message… “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

That has become one of my favorite passages in the Bible because it reminds me of the same fact I addressed before: it’s not about me. Jesus died for me while I was yet a sinner. When I was STILL IN MY SIN, He went ahead with His sacrifice. He wasn’t waiting for me to clean up my act in order to earn eternity with Him. He just died for me because He loves me and wanted me to be right with God.

My all-time record of actions does not justify my current circumstances or my eternal position. If God’s grace were not at play in my life, I would not be where I am and would not be going where I am going…both here in this life and beyond.

I’m house-sitting for a Grace family right now and I found this picture in their bathroom (if you happen to be reading this, guys, sorry I’m publicly posting your bathroom art as that’s a little weird). It really struck me the other day as I was reflecting on a year of God’s grace at Grace.

Undeserved. Unmerited. Unearned.

That’s grace.

I don’t deserve God’s favor. My merits could never amount to deserving it. And I don’t have to live my life in a state of striving to earn it.

He just gives me favor because I am one His kids, and that’s what He does.

As I reflect upon a year at Grace, I’ve never believed more strongly in undeserved, unmerited, unearned favor from God. I’ve experienced it day after day after day as I’ve grown into the man He made me to be. And I’ve never been more excited to see what He’ll do next.

If I had to choose one word to describe one year at Grace, it would be grace.